The Oregon Climate Service calls it the Great Coastal Gale of 2007, but here in Seaside we just call it The Big Storm. As wind and rain pounded my house last night, my husband and I recalled the storm that touched down 3 years ago this month. I remember standing on the rocky shores of Cove Beach holding up our cell phones trying to get a signal. We looked like characters in a sci-fi movie hailing the aliens. There were dramatic scenes raging all over the Pacific Northwest, but few outside our area knew what was happening in our town because of the loss of phone service. Today, I asked others around town what they remembered from the storm and our subsequent week without power.
Seaside residents, Wendy and Kim, remembered the Cove scene as well. Kim loaned out her phone several times to folks who couldn’t get a signal even out at the beach. Wendy said, “People made cardboard signs saying ‘Cellphones work here.’” She went on to say, “We had gas at my house, so a group of people would come over for showers. Then we’d all migrate over to someone else’s house to cook dinner over their camp stoves.” Kim talked about the half-pig and half-cow she had just bought prior to the storm. She ended up feeding a lot of people that week. “My husband asked if we should buy a half-cow this year and I said NO! Definitely not.” We haven’t seen a storm like that since, but she doesn’t want to push it!
Visiting with Sandy and Laura at the Seaside Chamber of Commerce, they recalled how they kept their offices open, ready to assist residents and visitors, all huddled around a little kerosene stove and a makeshift phone system. Sandy remembers KMUN radio as being the one source of information on the coast. “At one point the DJ said, ‘Would someone just come down and answer the phones?’” So she and two others trundled over to the station to field numerous calls. “It felt good to be doing something to help people,” she said. Laura laughingly added the one lesson she came away with: If you hear a big storm is coming – get your laundry done! “I was surrounded by piles of dirty laundry. That and no shower made for a great experience 3 days into the power outage when news crews came to interview me!”
Joey Daniels, Training Officer for Seaside Fire and Rescue, recalls how well the community came together in spite of being somewhat unprepared for such a large-scale crisis. He said the Fire Department, as one of the few places in town with a generator, became an instant command center and provided back up for the Police Department and Public Works. The station also became a safe haven for firefighters and their families. It was a strain, though, to serve as a makeshift evacuation center. People were sleeping in the firefighters’ beds and on chairs and floors as well! People even came to hook up their oxygen machines and other medical devices. He said the storm served to motivate the City to be more prepared in the future. A lot of places around town now have generators including the Seaside Convention Center, a much better evacuation site, he says. And the City has instituted an Instant Management System for emergencies with a Public Information Officer and administrative personnel.