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About The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current | View Entire Issue (Dec. 1, 2017)
THE DAILY ASTORIAN • FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2017
Founded in 1873
KARI BORGEN, Publisher
JIM VAN NOSTRAND, Editor
JEREMY FELDMAN, Circulation Manager
DEBRA BLOOM, Business Manager
JOHN D. BRUIJN, Production Manager
CARL EARL, Systems Manager
There will be
another big one
t is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since the North
Coast was hit by the Great Coastal Gale.
Our anniversary coverage in The Daily Astorian today
brings back memories for those of us who endured and survived.
Nearly constant rain accompanied by winds gusting up to 147
mph hit the region in December 2007, with felled power lines
and trees, widespread and lengthy electricity outages and consid-
While we remember the stories of courage and fortitude of
neighbors helping neighbors, it is timely to ponder what we
learned from the experience.
The biggest takeaway can be summed up in two sentences:
• Don’t expect immediate outside help
• Be prepared for next time
The very nature of our location on the coast puts us amid the
splendid natural beauty of the confluence of the Columbia River
and the Pacific Ocean. Of course, this also means that there are
only four ways to get here by road.
The disruption in flood-prone Tillamook County and the
swath of felled timber in Pacific and Wahkiakum counties in
Washington state meant the U.S. Highway 101 access route
north or south was not an option, especially with danger-
ously high winds buffeting the Astoria Bridge and Washington
Highway 4 covered in tree limbs all the way east to Longview.
U.S. Highways 30 and 26, our usual east-west lifelines inland
to the Willamette Valley, were blocked to regular traffic for days
because trees falling on power lines made passage dangerous
and frequently impossible.
In the aftermath of the storm, some North Coast leaders were
critical of the apparent lack of any early response from the state
of Oregon. But frankly, with the access problems to our area,
and the devastating flooding in Vernonia and elsewhere, it was
always unlikely we would receive prompt aid.
That meant we had to cope on our own.
And cope we did.
Police and firefighters throughout our community worked
long hours ensuring residents’ safety. Our cities and Clatsop
County government activated emergency coordinating centers
to address priorities. Camp Rilea proved an important resource.
Radio stations and this newspaper worked long and late to pro-
vide residents with the most accurate information. Church lead-
ers and private citizens rallied in a most good-neighborly man-
ner to provide shelter and food. At our two county hospitals,
Columbia Memorial and Providence Seaside, nursing staff
stayed on duty for days to care for the most vulnerable among
Agencies that contributed greatly to easing our pain included
the Pacific Power linemen, the Clatsop County road crews, and
the Oregon Department of Transportation personnel who liter-
ally risked their lives to help clear the highways and work to turn
the electricity back on.
The Coast Guard played a key role, too, as it does year-round,
although some resources were diverted inland to Centralia and
Chehalis, where brave helicopter crews rescued residents from
the rooftops of their homes as the floodwaters rose.
As we tip our hats to all those who pitched in, we need
to call upon that trusty Boy Scout motto once again with all
We must be prepared for the next weather-related natural
disaster. The very nature of where we live makes some sort of
repeat incident inevitable. It may be a similar prolonged storm
with hurricane-force gusts. Or, it may be a tsunami from a quake
off our Pacific Coast. The exact type of incident may vary, but
planning our response should not.
Drills, preparedness discussions and budgeting government
money for proper emergency responses need to continue to
make sure we are ready. This spending of our limited tax dollars
is not a luxury.
And private citizens should remember they will survive more
easily with a plan, rather than improvising when disaster hits.
Parents should talk with their children about what to do in the
event of an emergency, especially the need to avoid taking risks.
Every family should put together a basic survival kit, including
flashlights, batteries, drinking water, blankets and nonperishable
food stocks. This should be updated on a regular basis — for
example, replacing batteries and food items with newer items.
When weather forecasts are dire, fueling family vehicles and
checking tires is an excellent strategy, because once the power
goes out, gas station pumps cease normal operations.
We are optimistic that when the next big storm hits, we will
all cope much better than last time. We have learned much. And
some changes, including the tree clearance program and widen-
ing along Highway 30, and some additional work on Highway
26, should make east-west access somewhat better.
But we are still vulnerable.
The flip side of living in this most gorgeous part of the United
States makes the threat of more severe weather a constant.
We can cope best if we are prepared.
A tale of
By JIM VAN NOSTRAND
The Daily Astorian
ig storms can define our lives, and
turn them upside down.
It has been fascinating for me to
look at the memories from our readers of
the Great Coastal Gale of 2007, recounted
in a special section of today’s newspaper.
Everyone had their own experience, their own
story to tell.
Editing those stories brought back mem-
ories for me, as well — but of a different
disaster, two years earlier and 2,700
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina blasted
the Gulf Coast with 120-mph winds,
55-foot sea waves and a storm surge
averaging 30 feet. Low-lying coastal
communities were completely devas-
tated. It left 238 people dead and 67
missing in Mississippi, with 65,000 homes
and businesses destroyed and an estimated
$125 billion in damages.
The Biloxi Sun Herald, a Knight Ridder
newspaper, lay directly in the hurricane’s
path. I was a web editor for Knight Ridder’s
Washington Bureau at the time. When the
lights went out in Mississippi, I joined scores
of the company’s journalists around the coun-
try who mobilized to help our colleagues in
their hour of need.
Digital editors based in several different
time zones set up a news desk online to
tell the world what was going on. The Sun
Herald staff worked on laptops powered by
an emergency generator. They transmitted the
data via a sketchy satellite phone connection
and the assistance of a friendly trucker, who
ferried computer disks east on Highway 10 to
Mobile, Alabama. We printed the newspaper
at the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia,
and trucked it back to Biloxi, never missing a
day of publication.
As described by Stan Tiner, the Sun
Herald’s editor at the time, the internet “came
of age” for his newspaper during that crisis.
Social media was in its infancy — Facebook
was only a year old, and Twitter would not
be born until the following year. The digital
desk posted updates every half hour around
the clock for weeks. We used online bulletin
boards for readers around the world to inquire
about their loved ones. We provided tools
for readers to upload photos of their homes,
in too many cases reduced to concrete slab
foundations. The newspaper’s sports editor
became a blogger, posting “news you can
use” updates such as which bridges were out
and where the emergency crews were work-
ing at any given time.
Then, as now, advance planning is the key
to dealing with a calamity of that magnitude.
Knight Ridder had years of experience deal-
ing with disasters befalling its newspapers,
from the 1997 Red River flood in North
Dakota that inundated the Grand Forks Herald
to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 at the Miami
Herald in Florida. The company sent a team
to Biloxi with food, water, fuel, clothing, cash
and emergency equipment, including a por-
table cellphone tower. RVs were provided as
sleeping quarters for staffers who’d lost their
homes. The makeshift encampment in the
newspaper’s parking lot was dubbed “Camp
Hope.” Other Knight Ridder newspapers
sent reporters and photographers to spell the
The limited resources were carefully man-
aged, Tiner recalled. If a reporter needed to
drive to a neighboring town to cover a
story, the editors would calculate the
required mileage for a Honda Accord
and hand-crank the exact amount
of gasoline needed from a portable
Many of the tales about how com-
munities in Mississippi, Oregon and
Washington state came together and coped
with their respective disasters are remarkably
similar. In Biloxi, for example, residents
headed to the end of the Bay St. Louis Bridge
to catch faint cellphone signals. In Seaside,
everyone gathered at the Cove to do the same
In all the communities, neighbors broke
bread together in the streets, sharing the
food from their melting freezers and pooling
their fuel. First responders struggled to deal
with unprecedented damage and overcame
obstacles they never imagined they’d have
to confront. People had to figure out how
to live their lives without electricity, for
several days here and up to several weeks in
I was never sent to the hurricane zone, and
did not have to endure those privations. I did
my small part from the comfort of an office
in Washington, D.C. To this day I feel pangs
of guilt about that. I will always remember
the sacrifices made by the good folks at the
Sun Herald, who put out a newspaper every
day and worked hard to serve their readers in
the face of adversity. Many lost their homes
and everything they owned to the hurricane
— some lost relatives — and they continued
to do their jobs. It was their finest hour.
By all accounts, the staff here at The Daily
Astorian overcame long odds in 2007, though
without the assistance of a corporate parent
with deep pockets and expertise. They figured
it out on the fly, navigating treacherous roads
and downed trees and power lines, among
other obstacles. They managed to miss only
one day of publication.
I feel a sense of comfort. I work with a
battle-tested staff who has done this kind of
thing before. I live in a community that came
together in such a positive way.
Now it’s time to make sure we’re ready
for the next “big one,” whether a storm or a
Jim Van Nostrand is editor of The Daily
A satellite view of Hurricane Katrina.