Tuesday, November 17, 2009

High winds whirl up damage


By JOE GAMM and NANCY McCARTHY The Daily AstorianTuesday, November 17, 2009

The North Coast was picking up the pieces Tuesday after Monday night's big storm walloped the coast with high winds and almost constant rain.The National Weather Service warns that more bad weather is on the way.

Sustained winds of 55 mph were reported at Clatsop Spit near Astoria and there was one report of a gust of 62 mph in Seaside. Farther south, wind gusts at or exceeding 89 mph were reported at Waldport and Garibaldi.

A 95 mph gust was reported about 5:15 p.m. Monday at Cape Foulweather between Newport and Lincoln City.The U.S. Coast Guard closed the bars at the Columbia River and Tillamook Bay Monday and they remained closed overnight.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Wolfe in Portland said one to two inches of rain fell in about 12 hours on the Coast. The weather service has issued a flood watch for nearly all of northwest Oregon.

The biggest casualty was the roof of the old City Hall building at Broadway and Roosevelt Drive in Seaside that blew off. The road was blocked off by city of Seaside public works crews and was to be inspected at first light to determine how quickly it could be moved. The building was being renovated for local business use.

Flooding south of Seaside caused U.S. Highway 101 to be closed overnight to all but trucks and large high-profile vehicles, with a reported one foot of water on the roadway.

Adam Torgerson, the public information officer for Oregon Department of Transportation Region 2, said staff measured 16 inches of standing water on U.S. Highway 101 at Beerman Creek at 9 a.m. this morning. Although the rains from overnight had subsided, he said the tide was coming in, so crews did not expect the water on the road to recede.

Traffic through the area is limited to high-clearance vehicles, such as basic four-wheel drive vehicles. Torgerson said no passenger cars or minivans are allowed to pass through the high water."Over the course of the storm there were remarkably few trees down," Torgerson said. "There is brush and debris in various sections of the roads."He said crews are working to remove the brush and debris from Highway 101 and U.S. Highway 26.

He said hazardous tree removal done this summer might have had an impact on the storm's damage. There were only a few trees in the area that fell across roads."Typically, with that much wind, there is more," Torgerson said.Flood warnings were issued Monday for the Nehalem River. Between 2 and 2 1⁄2 inches of rain fell overnight and two rivers in Washington - the Willapa and the Grays - exceeded flood stage.Cannon Beach Elementary School was closed today because of a power outage that began at about 4 p.m. Monday. All other schools in the Seaside School District were open.Sheila Holden, regional community manager Pacific Power, said the wind damaged three transmission towers.

A mobile generator was to be moved to Cannon Beach to power core businesses, from Cannon Beach Elementary School south to the Pig 'N Pancake. She was unsure when power would be restored to the rest of the city.One of the transmission towers is in the middle of water, Holden said, and an assessment would have to be made about how to get equipment to it and what damage needed to be repaired.

Other sporadic outages occurred from Warrenton to Seaside, but those were repaired, Holden said.The transmission line serving Cannon Beach is in dense forest, which in places is not easy to reach."Cannon Beach is a beautiful place, but the terrain and mother nature seem to hit it the most," Holden said.

City Manager Rich Mays said the city staff planned to meet this morning to discuss damage that may have occurred and what to do if an extended power outage continued. Although there were no plans yet to open a shelter, Mays said that would be discussed. Coincidentally, the city's shelter committee had scheduled a meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday.Two trees came down in town, including one that landed on an SUV on Hemlock Street between Jackson and Monroe streets and one that fell over Hills Lane. Another major branch fell at Dawes and Spruce streets.

In addition to power outages, telephone service went out in some places, including Arch Cape.Clatsop County Emergency Management coordinator Gene Strong said this morning that staff held a weather briefing Monday afternoon to prepare for the coming storm. He said staff agreed to monitor the weather and remain prepared to react if needed, but emergency management plans were not implemented overnight."The bad news is we have another (storm) coming," he said.Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin said there was little serious damage from the overnight storm. He said there were few trees across roads this year. "The first storm usually just loosens 'em," Bergin said. "We'll be watching closely Thursday."The storm hit KMUN's transmission tower on Megler Mountain Monday morning.

The damage to the antenna meant that station managers had to shift programming to its sister station KCPB at 90.9 FM. The regular programming on KCPB was being pre-empted.

The storm damage happened between 8 and 10 a.m. Monday at the transmission tower, which is on a ridge above the Washington side of the Astoria-Megler Bridge. The strong winds battering the North Coast blew the antenna off the tower. A station spokesman said staff were working hard to restore normal broadcasting as soon as possible. A new antenna was being fabricated and shipped to the station.The interim general manager, Doug Sweet, was working with former general manager Dave Hammock and engineer Terry Wilson to correct the issue, but feared it could take three to five days. KTCB Tillamook and the three translators (South Astoria 91.1, Cannon Beach 89.5, and Wheeler/Manzanita 88.9) will be silent during this period. The receivers for KTCB and the translators listen to 91.9 for KMUN, and the engineering department cannot re-tune them to hear KCPB at 90.9. KMUN continued to broadcast on the internet at coastradio.org KAST Radio also had trouble. The Tuesday morning news crew reported the station's satellite dish was hit by the storm, meaning they had to offer local broadcasting instead of regular national offerings in the early morning slot.

The National Weather Service said a series of storm systems will continue to roll through the region through the weekend, beginning Wednesday night.In Washington, flood waters are receding in many areas. However, the flood warning remains in effect until Wednesday afternoon for the Skokomish River near Potlatch.

A five-mile section of Highway 101 was closed by flooding and mudslides Monday night near Hoodsport. Transportation Department spokeswoman Emily Pace says it remains officially closed until experts assess the situation, but some traffic Tuesday morning drove around the "road closed" signs.

Some high winds reported around Washington: Hoquiam 70 mph, Bellingham 58 mph, Everett 46 mph, Bremerton 39 mph, Sea-Tac Airport 35, Olympia 36.