Life in Bay Center on Willapa Bay

Living in a maritime fishing village in Southwest Washington state on Willapa Bay

Archive for the ‘storm 2007’ Category

Congressman Brian Baird Town Hall Meeting, South Bend, WA, July 1, 2008

Posted by Lietta on July 3, 2008

On Monday, June 30, I received an email from Congressman Baird’s office advising he was holding a Town Hall meeting in South Bend, on July 1 (the next day).  He holds Town Hall meetings annually in towns and cities across his district. I wanted to attend, for a couple of reasons. 

Some background:  Last summer, Congressman Brian Baird held a Town Hall Meeting in Raymond, and this was at the time that Congressman Brian Baird who had voted against the invasion into Iraq, decided that he wanted to come out approving President Bush’s ‘Surge’ of U.S. troops in Iraq.  Congressman Baird had made a trip to Iraq last year, to assess the situation of war in Iraq and had conversation with General Petreaus, coming home to believe in the value of proceeding with a Surge in U.S. troops deployed to Iraq.  The deaths of U.S. troops was at an increasing frequency, and violence was rampant in Iraq, IED’s and suicide bombings – killing civilians, Iraqi police and soldiers, and U.S. troops.   Last year, Congressman Baird made national news in his support for President Bush’s call for a ‘Surge’ (of troops) in Iraq. 

My husband and I, being a military family with 2 returning Iraq veterans (both from Washington state),  attended that Town Hall meeting in Raymond, WA last summer primarily to challenge the Congressman on his support of the ‘Surge’ and it was a contentious exchange with the Congressman.  Please refer to the article ‘Baird faces his constituents in Raymond’ in Daily World last September.   

The article features photo of my husband, Arthur Ruger, and the pointed question he put to  Congressman Baird man to man -“was the war worth our son’s blood.”, to which the Congressman responded yes, he believed it was.  That was a slap in the face to us, as we do not believe, have never believed this war was worth any son or daughter’s blood.  It was important to me then, last night, a year later at the Town Hall Meeting in South Bend, for me to connect to the Congressman based on our exchange from last year.  That same year, in December 2007 our son-in-law deployed to Iraq in his second 15 month stop-loss, extended deployment, where he is now.

I wanted very much to attend Congressman Baird’s Town Hall meeting last night, even though I seem to have run out of things to say about the wrongness of the Iraq war. We attended, and after Congressman Baird gave his presentations, he opened it to audience questions. I listened through all of the questions, intending to ask my two questions at the end of the proceedings.

Issues discussed during course of the meeting:

Gas Prices; Astonishingly – well to us anyway – when the question of gas prices came up, as we knew it would, and someone asked about off shore oil drilling and leased land not being used for oil drilling, Brian Baird started to discuss it and then asked the audience for a show of hands as to who was in favor of off-shore oil drilling. And almost all the hands went up. Then Brian Baird asked who was not in favor, with my husband, mine and probably 3-4 other hands going up.

I was stunned. And in somewhat confused language pointed out peak oil and global warming and then gave up, saying never mind. I could not believe what I had just witnesssed. An expectation that enough information is out there now about the growing oil crisis, that I had thought more would be appreciative of our need to change our lifestyle to become less oil dependent and the urgency in finding alternative energy lifestyles.

Acidic Ocean; Congressman Baird acknowledged Al Gore’s documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, and then explained to the audience about acidic ocean, disappearing coral reefs, and how as a coastal community we should be concerned about our oceans. Then he answered other questions, and while I was listening attentively, I had already recognized that once again, our views on oil dependency (my husband and mine) were indeed the minority opinions amongst the community we live in. We’ve encountered this before along the course of our speaking out against the Iraq war as military family with loved ones deployed in Iraq.

Funding Iraq War vs Domestic Needs; Later when a young reporter from the Aberdeen Daily World newspaper tossed out a comment about trading off the $$ being spent in Iraq against using for homeland needs, Congressman Baird explained that we were not using current funds, rather creating a deficit that would be paid in our children and grandchildren’s time. As Congressman Baird explained it that were we to withdraw the troops now (which he then went on to explain was a time consuming process and needed to be done responsibly so as not to leave troops exposed and at-risk), there would still be no funds available to be used for domestic concerns. Rather that it would reduce somewhat the future deficit which would be paid for by our children and grandchildren.

Copper Roof Replacement at Pacific County Courthouse; would cost considerably more than was originally estimated with rising costs of copper.  Inquiry if the Congressman could get the county some $$ help to replace the copper roof.  It being a historic building, must comply with regulations pertinent to historic buildings.  (Read more about it at this Daily World article, ‘Costs of New Roof Skyrockets’)
The discussions flowed covering various issues:
Historic Post Office in Raymond lacking accessibility for disabled; seems because the Raymond Post Office is considered a historic building, and it lacks accessibility for disabled, changes cannot be made to the building to be more facilitative without regard to the regulations governing historic buildings.  At this time, disabled citizens (wheelchair bound, or unable to manage the stairs) are unable to make access to the Post Office.   (Read more about this at Daily World article, ‘Baird Hears of Acces Woes’)

Illegal Immigration:  Someone asked the Congressman about illegal immigrants, and he responded by breaking it out into three categories;  a) illegal immigrants who are hardened criminals should be sent back to countries of origins, but how to do that – ask the country ‘hey will you take back so and so who is a hardened criminal?’;  b) illegal immigrants who are hired by employers knowingly as illegal and paid under the table should not be permitted to remain; and c) illegal immigrants who are hired by employers who have verified social security number and background and taxes are being paid out of wages – those illegal immigrants have likely been here number of years, working all of those years and some provision should be provided that permits them to remain on worker permit.  Congressman cited responsive employers like Coast Seafood who work to comply with current laws and have large number of immigrants employed.

Columbia-Pacific National Heritage Area Study:  Included was a concern expressed by owner of Rose Ranch regarding our area (Willapa region) becoming a National Heritage region. She identified probably 10 coalitions that have concerns should we become designated a National Heritage site. I have tried to blog some about this at Washblog, but am too underinformed to articulate the concerns well.
As the meeting wrapped up, I was at last able to ask my two questions;

1) Senator Cantwell obtaining $2 million towards Doppler Radar for SW Washington due to the December 07 storm (read more here) , and what was his position on that? He said fully in support. Then I pointed out that while the $2 million was great it was going to take a lot more $$ to build the Doppler, and where would that money come from, would he work towards that end. He said something about $2 million being a big drop, and likely the rest of the money might have to come from the State.

2) Last year, in your Town Hall, we talked with you about our son in Iraq because you had just gone national in your approval of the Surge, and I guess I wanted to have you inquire how he is doing. Before I could finish the sentence though, it seemed that Congressman Baird did remember and did ask how our son was doing. Which left me with a weak follow up, that really that was all I wanted was for him to inquire after our son’s well being. Then the Congressman went on to explain why he took the position that he did last year on the Surge and how it seemed to be working, violence was down. I actually did find myself saying that conditions did seem to be more favorable to our son’s (actually it is son-in-law) deployment this time, or at least I’m relieved that if he has to be there, it isn’t the year before, and that I hope he gets through this deployment and safely home.

After the meeting concluded, Congressman Baird, did come over to where I was sitting, and had some private words with me. He wanted me to know that he cares, that what I was doing as a mother was natural and he was glad that I was doing what I was doing; that what my son was doing was patriotic and what I was doing was patriotic; that when he is in DC the  groups that hold vigils in DC showing the 4,000 killed, he looks at each and every face and feels it deeply.

Congressman Brian Baird talking to Lietta, Town Hall Meeting in South Bend, July 1, 2008Congressman Brian Baird talking with Lietta Ruger, Town Hall Meeting, South Bend, July 1, 2008

(photo courtesy of Steven Friederich of the Daily World) 

For the most part the words he chose to use with me were agreeable, but I didn’t like the words about patriotic – and I wasn’t altogether sure he understood that I am among those military families opposed to the war in Iraq and have been speaking out against the war in Iraq.  Personally, I wouldn’t say the ‘Surge’ (of troops) in Iraq is working, that would really be beyond my ability to discern.  But it does seem the violence is down, and whatever strategies are being used, our son-in-law who is deployed in Iraq now in his second ‘stop-loss’, extended 15 month deployment seems to be less at risk than had he been deployed in Iraq a year earlier.

As Congressman Baird was shaking my hand and done with his part of the conversation, and before I could correct any misperceptions, others were coming around, and reaching out to me, whereby I offered my smiles of appreciation. Right about then someone else said to us, wait, wait, I didn’t get the picture, and then snap went the camera. I remember saying is this a photo op and we shouldn’t be smiling then. It was a confusing moment, and then there were 2 reporters wanting me to spell my name, wanting my son (son-in-law, I corrected) name which I never give, and the moment to correct any misperceptions that the Congressman might have about my position had passed.

More details of this Town Hall Meeting reported in the Aberdeen Daily World articles here and here.


Posted in climate warming, coastal storm 2007, December 2007 Storm, Doppler Radar, Pacific County, Pacific County Commissioner, Pacific ocean, South Bend, spartina, storm 2007, Town Hall Meeting, U.S. Representative Brian Baird, willapa, willapa bay | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Senator Cantwell gets $2 Million approved for Doppler Radar in SW Washington

Posted by Lietta on June 24, 2008

 A U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee has approved a $2 million request from Sen. Maria Cantwell for a Doppler radar and other equipment needed to track weather patterns along Washington state’s coastline. reads the first paragraph in an article at Daily World, an Aberdeen, WA newspaper.    Good news indeed! Especially to those of us in Southwest Washington counties who experienced the December 2007 storm (hurricane strength storm!) that flooded out Lewis County and had four counties in SW Washington declared FEMA disaster areas –  my county, Pacific, and neighboring counties, Lewis, Grays Harbor, Thurston.

A deserved shout out of thanks to Senator Cantwell.

read more below the fold


  The storm hit us in December and was unrelenting for almost 3 days.  For many, and for us in Pacific County, we found ourselves cut off and isolated from the rest of the state for several days without power, land line phones, cell phones, gasoline, or access to much in the way of help or services.  Which isn’t to say that the Emergency Management Teams were not responsive; rather that the isolation was an outcome for several days.  You can read more about it at the Washblog story here  and here of course, here at this blog.  In March 2008, Senator Cantwell held a meeting of the minds roundtable in Aberdeen, WA to discuss the whys and wherefores of the storm.  What came out of that meeting was the lack of adequate Doppler Radar coverage to read the weather conditions in Southwest Washington.  

The Olympic Mountain Range and Willapa Hills (where we live) provide an interference that the current Doppler Radar located in Scappoose, Oregon is unable to read.  The only other Doppler Radar to cover reading weather conditions in Washington is located far north at Camano Island. Oh, and KING 5 TV news has it’s own Doppler Radar that it purchased but it cannot read the weather conditions in SW Washington due to the natural terrain interference (Olympics and Willapa Hills).  

  Meanwhile California coastline, which is far less storm-laden than our own Washington coastline, has mulitiple Doppler Radars to read that coastline weather.  The inconsistency becomes more conspicuous as was evident in the powerful presentation given by University of Washington Professor Clifford Mass (see his website here) at the Senator Cantwell roundtable meeting held in March.  

  Arthur and I attended that meeting in March, as bloggers at Washblog, as residents of Pacific County directly affected by the storm, and as general public.  We were and are certainly not experts. I took notes, even had a brief interview shown by KIRO 7 TV, but I didn’t get around to actually writing up the story at Washblog.  I did start to write it up here at WB, and can’t recall for what reason I didn’t conclude posting the actual story as I had the notes. Now I wish I had posted the story of the meeting.  

 So in the absence of having written up the story, here are excerpts from the article ‘Doppler radar station funding clears one hurdle’ at Daily World this weekend;


The request was spurred on by the savage December storm and intense lobbying by concerned residents as well as local community leaders. The approval is just the first step in what is usually a long process to get federal funding for practically anything these days, although the senator hopes the funding will make the final cut in a 2009 appropriations bill.The Coastal Radar was one of the top priorities given to Sen. Patty Murray during a community forum immediately after the December storm. A few months later, Cantwell conducted her own forum on the issue at Grays Harbor College and residents again were given a chance to make their case, which was spearheaded by Professor Clifford Mass, of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington.


Cantwell’s Press Office said the funding was approved on Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Science, Justice and Related Agencies.”Despite having the worst non-tropical storms in the nation, Washington state has the worst weather radar coverage of any U.S. coastline,” Cantwell said in the press release announcing the news.

“Our nation’s weather radar system has a gaping blind spot right over the outer coast of our state, placing our communities at risk and hindering the everyday lives of our citizens,” she added. “Just last fall, Washington state experienced storms with hurricane-force winds and torrential rains that hit right in the heart of this blind spot. The funding passed today by the Senate Appropriations Committee is a major step toward solving this gap and better protecting Washington neighborhoods, businesses, and communities.”


Cantwell’s Office didn’t say where the Doppler radar would be located, but the likely spot would be in the Westport-Grayland area, which would be able to catch weather patterns coming not only off the coast but in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the mouth of the Columbia River.The fishing industry, in particular, has been lobbying hard for the doppler system for years now, citing the dangers of fishing off the coast without a clear warning of storms that could be coming on to the horizon.

Cantwell’s Office noted that a single radar on the central Washington coast could view storms over a hundred miles offshore.

As an aside, I know my neighbors up in Mason County and Kitsap County on the Peninsula also  felt the effects of that storm in December.  I think with the sizeable, and unexpected flooding out in Lewis County which cut off I-5, some of our neighbors storm woes did not get much media coverage.  

On an upside to this storm, I read that some of the flooded out farmers in Lewis County are able to make a showing this season at the Olympia Public Market.  Why not pay a visit and make a special effort to purchase produce from the Lewis County vendors?

By Lietta Ruger

Posted in climate warming, coastal storm 2007, Doppler Radar, Neighboring communities, Pacific County, pacific northwest storm 2007, storm 2007 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

After the Storm of the century in Pacific County

Posted by Lietta on January 2, 2008

While it appears I last posted an entry Dec 7, 2007, that is not quite accurate, as I began trying to chronicle the media reports as they unfolded, by collecting them and creating a special page for the articles here  – titled Storm of the Century, Pacific Northwest, December 2007.    The second week after the storm, on December 11, Pacific County held a debriefing meeting calling together all of the emergency, disaster responders across the entire county.  It was a public meeting, and I saw an announcement of the meeting in Oregon newspaper, which I then tracked down to find Pacific County Commissioners website, made contact by email indicating if it was public meeting, I wanted to attend and also input.  I was advised it was public meeting, yes, but intended for debriefing and time wouldn’t permit public comments.   I invited my mother to attend with me, and I think the two of us were the only ‘public’ to attend the meeting.

I took notes, and continued adding comments to the original story of my report of our experience that was already at Washblog.  For more detail of how those weeks between the storm and now unfolded, visit and read the comments at Washblog.   My husband, Arthur, during this time was fully engaged as bi-lingual case manager with DSHS and was deployed to Grays Harbor CSO to help with delivery of emergency/disaster related DSHS programs.  Grays Harbor and Lewis Counties were declared FEMA disaster counties, and that specification permitted and authorized the DSHS programs . He was putting in 14 hour days for an entire week, and the applications numbered in the thousands, a thousand and more a day.  The following week Pacific, Mason and Thurston counties were declared FEMA disaster counties.  He was putting in the hours at his own CSO in South Bend in Pacific County.

During this time period, I had taken my vehicle into Steve’s Auto for repairs, and repairs were clearly needed, but he had to order parts which were delayed in arriving due in part to after the storm clean up  delaying normal operations.  We were without vehicle for almost three weeks, until after Christmas, so for my mother and I, it meant staying pretty close to home most of that time and cabin fever set in from time to time.

I had wanted and tried to share  at the Dec 11 county debriefing meeting, something of the Bay Center experience of the storm and Sheriff Didion seemed to want to discourage me from sharing, citing that there would be public community meetings in January 2008. Not much deterred, I wanted to make sure some report from Bay Center became part of the county record, as to date I had heard nothing from or about Bay Center, and wondered why volunteer fire department, or Bay Center Community Association or someone from Bay Center was not representing on this county debriefing meeting.

I actually don’t know if anyone from Bay Center was invited to participate in the debriefing meeting and perhaps declined to come, or if representation of Bay Center community is met via South Bend representation, ie, South Bend Fire Department, South Bend Police.   But if that is the case, it seemed odd to me that the small community of Nemah was represented at this meeting, and reported their experience as much like what we experienced in Bay Center – isolation and no information and a seeming failure of communications across the county.  So I insisted on making a bit of a report as a member of Bay Center Community Association, to report on actions taken by the Bay Center Store.

Earlier in the meeting, there had been a go around of introductions, and I had introduced as resident of Bay Center, public, and contributing editor of Washblog.  Perhaps Sheriff Didion saw me more as contributing editor of Washblog, and less as active resident concerned about the disaster response to and in my community of Bay Center.  After about three attempts to explain I wanted to report on the response in Bay Center, Sheriff Didion permitted me to speak, whereby I gave a very brief report of the actions of the staff of the Bay Center Store in the absence of any other contact or communication in, to or out of Bay Center.  It seemed the representatives in the meeting listened politely, but I felt a bit unrecognized and that perhaps I had not made my intentions clear – wanting something of representation from the community of Bay Center at this meeting.   Later, when the meeting was concluded, Sheriff Didion did seek me out and apologize saying he meant no disrespect.  I said I understood what he was trying to facilitate and the intention of the meeting, and having years of experiences with business meetings, know he was keeping meeting on track and did a good job.

So, I am still puzzled, then, about the coming together of my community in Bay Center to meet to discuss things of this nature.  Actually the Bay Center Community Association did have it’s monthly meeting the week after the county debrief meeting, and I did not attend – other things came up.  I did query in email  to the secretary who took notes of that meeting, inquiring if there had been discussion of the storm, community preparedness, county response.  She said that had not been part of the discussion, and more the meeting settled an administrative issue about a financial matter as to who was to be signed onto the Association’s check book.   I responded  that I was disappointed the storm had not come up for discussion.

On another day,  when my mother and I went out to walk the dogs and check the mail, I was having discussion about the storm, the community response, the county response and talking about the county debriefing meeting I had attended.  Several from the town coming in to check their mail entered into discussion, and we had a bit of an informal town hall type meeting right there in the post office.    Later at the town Christmas pageant, I had another opportunity to talk to some from the community about the storm, the response, including the wife of one of our own who is National Guard and participated as National Guard deployed to help in Pacific County.

About 2 weeks after the storm, I wrote letters to the editor that I sent to Pacific County PressChinook Observer and Willapa Harbor Herald to compliment the staff of the Bay Center Store, the community, the work of all who participated across the county in responded, while also indicating Pacific County could do better.  The letters were long, and I had thought they would not be published, or if published, would be edited for length.  Surprisingly both Pacific County Press and Chinook Observer printed my letter in it’s entirety; Pacific County Press making it an article, Chinook Observer placing it in center of the many other letters to the editor they received commenting on the storm and response of Pacific County.   (text here of my published letter to editor).    Willapa Harbor Herald has yet to publish anything I or Arthur have submitted to their paper as letter to editor.  Perhaps we are not following their particular established protocol, as we have sent ltte by email, and perhaps they don’t take email ltte.  Something for me to check into another time, perhaps I will phone them to learn why they don’t publish the ltte he and I have sent.

Wanting to ensure that when Pacific County was declared a FEMA disaster county, that the community of Bay Center understood they could then be eligible for the DSHS disaster related food program, Arthur drafted a flyer that I could post at the Bay Center Post Office.  I sent a copy of his flyer as well to Stephanie Fritts,  PCEMA (Pacific County Emergency Management) and I’m glad I did as it became one of the notifications that were shared around the county (including in the Willapa Harbor Herald – h0w ironic).

We finished up the holidays with pleasantries the Saturday before Christmas.  Arthur’s daughter payed us an overnight visit and we took her and my mother to Astoria, Oregon for a high tea; a Christmas Tea at the Windsor House of Tea.  It was charming.    There had been no opportunity to do any kind of Christmas shopping at all, and this was our one day to do a bit of gift buying, so we did a hurried shopping, and later that evening exchanged gifts.   On Christmas Eve, we attended Christmas Eve worship services at our church, St John’s Episcopal in South Bend, WA.   It wasn’t until Friday of Christmas week that I got my vehicle back, and by then it was time to take my mother back to her home in Tacoma.

A most different and unusual Christmas holiday, but very much neighbors helping neighbors and my husband had the opportunity to be a bit of Father Christmas in a real kind of way to people who lost so much due to the storm, and at the very least he was able to provide comfort, humor  helping people to chuckle a bit, even in the face of losing so much as he approved application after application.   It wasn’t he alone, and there were DSHS case managers, supervisors, administrators, directors from across the state putting in the long hours over the Christmas holiday season to help people in Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pacific, Mason and Thurston counties during the disaster of the storm of December 1 -2, 2007.

I am trying to find ways to put away the affect the storm has had on me emotionally, as life move on, and we transition from the end of last year into the new year.  It isn’t so easy to let it go, and while I know we were not nearly so adversely affected as many were, somehow,   I have experienced this storm as an intrusion into reality as not only a personal wake up call for how we will need to adjust our lives while we remain living in this community and county, but also it needs to be a wake up call of bigger proportion than just us, just this community, just this county, just this state.    We experienced the best of neighbors helping neighbors and some of the hallmarks of rugged individualism that comprise the people in this region, but we also experienced, or I experienced what I perceive as a glimpse into the future as global warming marches onward.  No matter the cause, no matter the diversity of reactions, it sure seems to me that global warming won’t be waiting for humans to make up their minds if it is a real phenomenon or not, but that nature will respond to whatever is and has been affecting it irrespective of whether humans want to react to it proactively or not.

I remember once when I was a supervisor of a team of case managers, a training exercise I attended, an exercise in which we were all to pretend we were in a submarine which was unable to surface and the oxygen was limited.  Our instructions were that we had xx amount of oxygen, and our job was to survive xx number of minutes on the air we had without verbally speaking to one another.   I was stunned that the participants in this exercise were following the instructions and were not verbalizing, but motioning by charades how to share the oxygen.  I deliberately broke with the rules, and spoke aloud, saying this is ridiculous, we are about to run out of air, and will drown in this submarine, and we need to talk to make a plan quickly, and yet we are ‘following instructions’ to not talk aloud?!  We are about to die and need to work together to avoid that outcome.   Unfortunately for me and the participants I was not convincing, or persuasive,  so the miming and pantomine and charade acting continued, and when time was called for the exercise, sure enough, our group was dead – had died.

The lesson I took from that is that while I may well have been ‘right’ in this instance, but without stronger skills of persuasion, I was unable to convince my group of my viewpoint, mission, and purpose, so I perished with the group.  The actions of the team, in this instance, put me in more peril than trusting my own instincts, yet I needed the team to avoid perishing.  In some ways, it feels like that exercise was a bit of the reality we experienced here in Pacific County this past month – the month of the storm of the century.


Posted in Bay Center, Bay Center Grocery Store, Bay Center proper, Chinook Observer, climate warming, coastal storm 2007, Pacific County, Pacific County Commissioner, Pacific County Commissioners, Pacific County Press, storm 2007, storm of the decade, Willapa Harbor Herald | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Survived hurricane-force winds of 119 mph, infrastructure collapse Pacific County, Washington coast, December 2007 Pacific Northwest storm

Posted by Lietta on December 7, 2007

More on page on this website (see tabs above) dedicated to ‘Storm of the Decade, Pacific Northwest, December 2007′

Today is Friday, Dec 7, 2007 and we just got power back yesterday, Thursday, Dec 6, 2007, after being without power, communications, access in or out of the county since the storm hit last Sunday, Dec 2, 2007. It was what it was advertised by the Chinook Observer to be – the storm of the decade and it affected most all of Washington coastline with grave flooding inland and great parts of Oregon coastline. Most hard hit with massive flooding was Lewis County and Grays Harbor County, our neighboring counties. Pacific County was hit hard too, enough to collapse a seemingly fragile infrastructure; no power, no land phones, no cell phones, no 911, no access in or out of the county and even emergency communications out of county to notify status were limited and curtailed. It was an eerie feeling to be so completely cut off.

Later as the week wore on the reality of not being able to access our own bank account or get gas as gas pumps need electricity to work, and word of possible contamination of water in South Bend/Raymond, the fragility of the infrastructure not only in our own county but any county became evident to me. We must learn to rely on individual preparedness, and preparedness and help from among our community to see us through those early days of catastrophic weather events. And given what we experienced with this storm, I’m inclined to believe that with climate warming, we will see other such storms, perhaps not at that magnitude, but enough to cause breaks in the infrastructure here in Pacific County and in neighboring counties.

Sorting out how to tell parts of the story, and rather than one big fat blog entry, I will want to break it down some. For the days without power and communications (phones, cell phones, 911, emergency access), I started a journal. Now that we have power back and I am seeing via internet news all the devastation around us in our own county and neighboring counties, I recognize we are among the very fortunate.

Providing the link to the Washblog interview Noemie did with me when she phoned me yesterday to check up on us where she gives an account of what I shared with her.

Report from Lietta Ruger: Storm Causes Complete Infrastructure Collapse in Pacific Co.

I just spoke with Lietta Ruger, one of Washblog’s editors, and she asked me to post a little summary of our conversation. She plans to post something more in-depth later.

She and Arthur Ruger live in the Willapa Bay community in Bay Center. There is no locally owned broadcast media in the area, and so they rely primarily on King 5 TV for their storm warnings. KIRO and KOMO generally don’t provide coverage on their area. She said that no warnings came through mainstream media on the severe impacts that their community was expected to face from the impending storm last weekend. It was only because they happen to subscribe to what she describes as a tiny newspaper, a weekly called The Chinook Observer, that she learned her community was facing perhaps “the storm of the decade.”

Having received this one warning, she and Arthur brought out their candles and blankets and cooked up the food in their refrigerator and battened down the hatches – just in case. The storm hit on Sunday and the three of them – including Lietta’s mother – stayed indoors for two days as winds up to 119 miles an hour raged outside. There was no electricity, no phone service, no cellphone service. After the storm subsided, the roads were so impassible in every direction, and the power outage and the lack of emergency service so complete — that as far as people in her community knew, they might have separated from the rest of the United States and floated off into the Pacific Ocean.

It wasn’t until yesterday that a local store selling crank radios opened and she and Arthur were able to tune into coverage from Astoria, Oregon to find out the extent of the damage to the rest of Washington state.

Even then, most of the stores remained locked, the social services office, where emergency help is usually offered, remained closed and dark. The gas pumps, which run on electricity, don’t work. People who have medical emergencies are out of luck. And at least one woman did die, when her house caught on fire from the candles she was using to provide light.

There was no safe way to travel by water, either, because the water was moving too fast and there were too many other dangers, low tree branches, objects, etc. Even the county’s weather monitoring equipment failed. We know that winds reached 119 mph in Bay Center and 120 mph in Astoria, she said, because private citizens had equipment that withstood the wind, while the wind broke the county’s equipment.

The problem wasn’t with community members. People helped each other quite a bit. In fact, the owner of the Bay Center grocery store, a woman named Lori, drove from Long Beach through all the hazards to Bay Center and fired up the generator and stove and cooked soups and made sandwiches to serve the people in that community. And her husband and son did that in the other grocery stores owned by the family in other nearby communities. But now that the electricity has come back on, and she’s learned that the rest of the world is still here — though Grays Harbon and Lewis Counties appear to have suffered even more — now she’s feeling pretty upset.

This is a warning, she said, that we need to get our act together on emergency preparedness. We are experiencing the effects of climate change and we can expect more. This kind of storm is not on the usual scale. It’s a clear signal, as well, that we need some major changes in how we do media. Pacific County needs its own broadcast media. We talked for awhile about testimony at the recent FCC hearing in Seattle that local communities are endangered by the centralization of broadcast media. That is absolutely correct, she said. Now that she has a little time to think, it’s hitting her, the extent of this collapse of infrastructure: the lack of emergency preparedness and media coverage and the blackout on all services during the storm or for the 2 days afterwards. “This complete and utter failure, she said, “is unacceptable.

(read more at the Washblog story)

A few photos below taken by my mother of Bay Center in Pacific County, after the 2 days

of hurricane-force winds. Click on photos to see larger view.

Downed tree on Bay Center Road

Downed treee on Bay Center Road, Bay Center, WA in Pacific County, WA

Several downed trees at Bay Center residence

Several downed trees at Bay Center residence, Bay Center, WA in Pacific County,WA

Tree down on power line Bay Center Road

Tree down on power line Bay Center Road,Bay Center, WA in Pacific County,WA

Blow down trees in the county park at tip of Bay Center

Blow down trees in the county park at tip of Bay Center, WA in Pacific County,WA

More on page on this website (see tabs above) dedicated to ‘Storm of the Decade, Pacific Northwest, December 2007’


Posted in Bay Center, Bay Center Grocery Store, climate warming, coastal storm 2007, Neighboring communities, Pacific County, Pacific County Commissioner, pacific northwest storm 2007, Pacific ocean, South Bend, storm 2007, storm of the decade, willapa, willapa bay, Willapa Bay in the news | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »