Life in Bay Center on Willapa Bay

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

Resiliency in the community; Storm – Pacific County Response, Dec 2007; my ltte, published Chinook Observer, Pacific County Press

We live in Bay Center, in unincorporated South Bend, in Pacific County. We felt those hurricane-strength winds of 120 mph. Wind and rain storms aren’t unusual in Bay Center, and we’ve learned to keep emergency items like candles, radio, flashlights, water, food at the ready for those times when the power goes out. And the power has been out in previous years, but only for hours at a time, or overnight at the most. This time power was down for four days. This time, we had brought my elderly mother from out of town to stay with us through the holidays. She experienced the storm with us and as a city-dweller, from out of town, and elderly, I experienced how Pacific County reacted to this storm a bit differently than I would have if she hadn’t been staying with us.

Firstmost, we are grateful to the wonderful people at the Bay Center Store, for their amazing response to the community out here in Bay Center. The owners, Laurie and Kevin Bredfield, managed to drive from Long Beach to Bay Center, to make sure the store opened and that staff was in place to help serve the community. They fired up the wood stove for warmth and cooking. Each day the power was out, they cooked up a big batch of hearty homemade soup, brewed up hot coffee and apple cider and made up sandwiches, all offered at no charge to the families who came to the store. People from the community gathered to warm up, get something warm to eat, and exchange information about who was hearing what about roads, people’s safety, communication lines, power outages. We want to thank Laurie and Kevin for being more than business owners with the one and only grocery store in Bay Center; we want to thank them for helping this community at a difficult time, and making what was a dangerous drive to get from Long Beach to Bay Center to ensure that community families had heat and food. Hot soup was a real bonus! Also a thank you to their staff who were there each day; Shelly Stepp, South Bend; Sherry Weiss, Nemah, and Ted Sheater.

We now know we were among the fortunate, as once phones and power was restored, we had access to information outside Pacific County and could hear about and see the damage. But for the several days we had no phone, no cell phone, no power, we felt very cut off from information beyond the immediacy of our own community. It seemed as if no information was coming in or going out of Pacific County. With no land or cell phone lines, we could not notify our families that we were safe, nor could they reach us to learn of our condition. For one of my daughters, we knew her husband was deploying to Iraq on December 4, and we could not phone her to help comfort her on that day, nor could she reach us. We grew concerned that families might be hearing in the news about the storms, and would not know if we were safe here in Pacific County. I surely did not want my daughter to have that burden on top of the burden she was already carrying with her husband deploying to Iraq.

My elderly mother, 71 yrs old, is in good enough health, but having her here with us, caused me to consider what we would have needed to do if she required emergent and/or medical services. And I was deeply distressed that it seemed to us we had no warning of the strength of the wind storm except via my online subscription to the Chinook Observer which indicated a warning of hurricane-strength winds for Sunday and Monday. Since the word ‘hurricane’ isn’t used in this region, I took that warning very seriously and had some time for us to make emergency preparations that weekend before the storm hit. I remember the Tsunami test drill that Pacific County ran and how we did not get notification during the drill so we know that warning system isn’t working. I am wondering now why in Pacific County, we don’t have a better system of advance warning.

The people in Pacific County reacted, responded, and from our experience were amazing in being helpful and good neighbors. There is no question that there are some remarkable people that are my neighbors throughout Pacific County and that people helped others throughout the county. Yet, it does seem to me that the infrastructure that makes up Pacific County could do much better, and I do hope we all can find ways to be a better prepared county for the next time.

Lietta Ruger

Bay Center, WA

One Response to “Resiliency in the community; Storm – Pacific County Response, Dec 2007; my ltte, published Chinook Observer, Pacific County Press”

  1. […] 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 […]

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