Ranchers hit by flooding get donated hay for animals

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Tollgate Off-Road and Recovery formed after devastating flooding hit their community

This Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, photo shows a small bridge in the Thorn Hollow area of rural Umatilla County that collapsed as a result of rising floodwaters from the Umatilla River near Adams, Ore. Severe flooding in eastern Oregon closed a major freeway on Friday, forced evacuations in low-lying areas and stranded at least one family on their roof as other parts of the Pacific Northwest also braced for more flooding and landslides. (Ben Lonergan/East Oregonian via AP)

TOLLGATE, Ore. (AP) — A club of off-roading enthusiasts in northeastern Oregon has revved into action to help livestock owners hit by extreme flooding this month.

The Tollgate Off-Road and Recovery Club had just formed when devastating flooding hit their community on Feb. 6, destroying homes, washing out roads and also damaging hay used to feed livestock owned by farmers and ranchers in the area.

Now, the club is delivering bales of hay to hungry animals along the Umatilla River and the South Fork Walla Walla River. Twenty bales of hay were delivered Thursday and more came over the weekend, with still more loads planned, the Capital Press reported.

“Our goal was getting the hungry animals fed,” said Emmitt Quintal, one of the founders of the Tollgate Off-Road and Recovery Club. “We have hay on the ground now, and we have more hay coming.”

Quintal, who lives on Tollgate Mountain about 40 miles north of Pendleton, Oregon, started the club on Feb. 1 with friends Colton McGee and Teren Manning to promote off-road recreation and assist with rescue efforts in the steep and rugged terrain.

By Feb. 6, the worst of the floods had arrived, as heavy snow in the Blue Mountains was followed by days of rain and warmer weather, sending a surge of water into the rivers.

Quintal said the club responded immediately, traversing waterlogged roadways to reach stranded homes and communities.

“We were getting requests for everything from giving them a ride, dropping off donations or picking up donations,” Quintal said.

They also knew livestock had not been fed in several of the locations they visited, prompting the call for hay to feed the animals.

Valerie O’Dai, who lives in Elgin, Oregon, and serves as a disaster relief coordinator for the nonprofit Emergency Equipment Solutions, connected with the club over social media and took on coordinating hay donations, storage and delivery.

“When disaster strikes anywhere in Eastern Oregon, people come out of the woodwork to help,” O’Dai said. “We are small-town people. We are close-knit communities.”

Volunteers and members of the off-road club worked into the night Feb. 13 making the first deliveries to 25 ranches along the Umatilla and South Fork Walla Walla rivers, O’Dai said. She was confident they would receive another 50 tons of hay.

“We are still looking for donors,” O’Dai said. “We’re still looking for more people who are willing to help in any step of the line.”

The Tollgate Off-Road and Recovery Club is directing anyone who wants to donate or volunteer to their Facebook page.

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