Clatsop emergency operations center to open as giant storm nears

<I>SANDRA SWAIN -- The Daily Astorian</I><BR>Gene Strong, Clatsop County Emergency Services coordinator, left, and Ed Wegner, county Public Works director, listen to a half-hour long conference-call briefing from the National Weather Service at the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office Friday afternoon.

Updated 8:45 p.m.

A giant storm heading toward the North Coast and the Long Beach (Wash.) Peninsula prompted local emergency managers to gather Friday to make sure the region is prepared.

Wind gusts of up to 100 mph are possible Sunday night or early Monday, with sustained winds of 65 mph predicted during those times, the National Weather Service has warned.

Check The Daily Astorian Web site at www.dailyastorian.com for updates as fresh information becomes available.

Click on hotlinks for tips from (Clatsop County) and the (Oregon Department of Transportation).

?The predictions sound like it will be your typical winter storm for the North Coast, but with the big winds lasting a little longer than usual,? said Gene Strong, emergency services manager for the Clatsop County Sheriff?s Office.

Residents should prepare for possible power outages and storm hazards. Have adequate supplies of food, fresh batteries and flashlights on hand. Don?t travel unless necessary and then watch out for downed trees blocking roadways. Avoid any downed power lines. Provide adequate shelter for pets and livestock. Secure outdoor items.

County and other local emergency officials met Friday afternoon for a conference call briefing from the National Weather Service. Afterward, county officials met to discuss their plans to respond to storm problems. The sheriff?s office will open its emergency operations center with a minimal staff Sunday night to coordinate response efforts.

Public Works has staff lined up to be called in Sunday, if necessary, to clear roads of fallen trees. All of its trucks are gassed and equipped. Rock has been stockpiled in several locations around the county. Today, crews doubled checked the county?s generators and one at the New Northwest Broadcasters radio station to make sure they were working.

?We?re ready,? said Ed Wegner, director of the county Transportation and Development Department.

Pacific Power crews are preparing for the storm by putting key staff in position before potential difficulties. Spokeswoman Sheila Holden said Friday that crews can respond within two to six hours of any bad weather, especially if winds over 50 mph cause trees to fall on power lines.

?We are working closely with Clatsop County emergency managers, the Red Cross and the city managers in the area to make sure that we are ready as things develop if there are power outages,? she said.

?In anticipation of the wind, snow and heavy rain, we?ve already staged crews to assist in potentially hard-hit areas, especially along the coast,? said Bill Eaquinto, vice president, operations for Pacific Power. ?Just as our crews are prepared to respond to outages, we ask our customers to be prepared as well and help us keep their safety and well-being the top priority.?

Emergency meeting held

Clatsop County leaders gathered Friday afternoon to make sure a contingency plan was in place for the storm. They heard a half-hour regional conference-call briefing from Tyre Wild, of the National Weather Service, before gathering to discuss specific North Coast plans.

Wild indicated that Weather Service has been in contact with the Columbia River Bar Pilots about conditions in the ocean, where high seas Sunday night will add to dangers. Gene Strong, Clatsop County?s emergency Services coordinator, said he would be in touch with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Astoria Fire Chief Lenard Hansen said his city is prepared. Emergency generators are fueled and ready to use and chain saws and other equipment are in place. The power lines that feed the emergency communications equipment atop Coxcomb Hill are no longer overhead where trees could fall on them and knock out power, Hansen said, but are now buried underground.

And back-up generators have recently been installed at Astoria?s sewage lift stations, so sewage overflows shouldn?t be a problem if the power goes out, he said.

Hansen was one of three area fire chiefs attending the Friday afternoon briefing in Astoria. Also attending were Ted Ames of Warrenton and Ron Tyson of Olney-Walluski. Clatsop County representatives included Deb Kraske, assistant county manager, Wegner, Paul Williams, chief deputy from the Clatsop County Sheriff?s Office, and Joell Archibald, county health director.

Winds up to 100 mph

The Weather Service predicts strong damaging winds possible along the coast and the Coast Range Sunday and Monday. The high wind warning will be in effect for late Saturday night through Tuesday morning.

A strong low-pressure area will move across the northeast Pacific Ocean later this weekend, forecasters said Friday. This will bring a strong warm front across the region Sunday, followed by a cold front late Monday afternoon.

Wild, from NWS, said south winds of 25 to 40 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph are expected to develop Sunday morning along the coast. However, winds will increase Sunday afternoon and remain strong Sunday night and Monday. Sustained south winds of 45 to 60 mph, with gusts of 80 to 100 mph are possible, with the strongest winds expected on headlands and exposed beaches.

Early predictions are that the most intense period of windy weather will be Monday afternoon, after which winds will ease during the evening as the cold front moves onshore.

((ODOT warns against traveling

ODOT advises motorists on the coast to avoid traveling if possible. Drivers should check road conditions on www.tripcheck.com and be prepared for increased travel time as weather related closures may cause detours or delays.

Fans should be prepared for traffic delays if driving to Eugene for the Civil War game

Weather forecasts predict slick conditions Saturday morning with a potential for black ice in the Willamette Valley. On Interstate 5, southbound traffic is typically very heavy prior to home games, so those attending should allow for additional time before and after the event.

ODOT asks motorists to use special care on bridges, on-ramps, off-ramps and transition ramps, which tend to ice up more quickly than other segments of roadway because they?re more exposed.

In the Cascade and Coastal mountains, heavy snow is expected. Those traveling over mountain passes should be prepared for bad weather.

Check your generators

Pacific Power engineers ask residents to make sure generators are properly wired for a home or business, and don?t connect a generator directly to a home?s main fuse box or circuit panel because this can create a dangerous backfeed hazard for line crews.

If a power outage occurs, Pacific Power encourages customers to first check fuses and circuit breakers. If the power failure is not caused inside the home or business, the customer should report the outage to Pacific Power at 1-877-LITES OUT (1-877-548-3768).

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