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The clean-up begins

Now that the water has finally receded, Port Orchard officials have opened the roadways and business owners and residents can assess the damage and start cleaning up some of the hardest-hit areas in South Kitsap.

Mayor Kim Abel said compared to other areas, Port Orchard has been lucky, explaining “we still have damage — the sinkhole is a big one.”

“In light of the damage I’ve seen in the press for other regions, Port Orchard is very lucky and blessed with the amount of damage,” she said.

On Bay Street, businesses west of Sidney felt the hardest blows, especially at Los Cabos Grill and The Dance Gallery, where the owners are working to replace flooring.

The restaurant resembles little of what it was before the storm. The carpets have been scraped off the cement floor, and anything not bolted down has been upended and placed on top of tables and booths.

Los Cabos owner Maria Soltero summed up her situation with “What am I going to do now?”

Soltero said her insurance company explained that because the damage came from outside the building, it could not pay for it. So she is repairing the water damage out of pocket, and hopes to be opened again within a week.

Just across the street, Kara Morkert assesses her new dance floors, just recently installed after the gallery relocated to Bay Street.

The once smooth, wooden dance floors now show sharp edges as each plank curls upwards.

But Morkert kept her optimism Tuesday, and employees fielded phone calls from prospective students, indicating that the storm was just one hurdle for the growing business.

“You know what, it could have been so much worse,” Morkert said. “It’s not great and we lost a studio.”

But she noted that her business neighbors rallied together during the storm, placing sandbags in front of shops and trying to prevent as much damage as possible.

Morkert expressed grief for all the hard work downtown merchants have put into the area, only to be hit by this most recent natural disaster.

“All this poor merchants down here are trying to make Bay Street awesome,” she said.

Elsewhere in Port Orchard businesses were also facing high waters and lost customers. The High Point Shopping Center is open again for business after the city closed off Bethel Avenue to deal with a 50-foot long sinkhole in the parking lot in front of HiJoy Bowl.

Thursday, the city prepared to reroute the water from the hole and begin examining the extent of damage to the 24-inch stormwater drain. After the water is out, Public Works Director Maher Abed said crews would send a camera in to examine the situation.

The city has contracted Caseco Associates and WestSound Engineering to work on the project.

On Tuesday, Caseco bolstered an water line, which was not damaged, but exposed when the ground gave out. Caseco President Brad Paige explained that the broken stormwater drain was around four feet underground.

The hole has been blocked by cement barriers, and business is open again at the shopping center.

The city took matters into its own hands over on Ross Point, where the possibility of mudslides blocked Highway 166 heading toward Bremerton. The Department of Transportation has been stretched thin with the high number of emergencies, so the city cleaned up the area itself.

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