LONG BEACH — Pacific County Emergency Management Agency (PCEMA) is working closely to monitor the progression of a major storm that is threatening with high winds and thunderstorms that have generated tornado warnings across the region.
Even the area’s wildlife appeared to notice something was amiss heading into Friday morning. A Long Beach night shift worker, who asked not to be named, observed an “Owl in the middle of the road, several coyotes, bears walking around in Long Beach and Ilwaco. Cats, frogs, weasels. That was just in the last two hours. Think somethings up? Possum, deer. Way out of the ordinary for animal behavior this morning.”
PCEMA Deputy Director Scott McDougall said later Friday morning that a number of severe thunderstorms were reported in the area. Those storms had the potential to generate tornadoes as they moved inland off the ocean.
At 4 a.m. a tornado warning was issued for the Long Beach, Chinook and Ilwaco areas but the pattern weakened and no actual tornado was reported in Pacific County, said McDougall. A second warning was reported at 6 a.m. for the Bay Center area but no tornado was spotted. There was a third tornado warning for the south Peninsula area from 9:11 to 9:45 a.m. A fourth warning eventually followed.
The National Weather Service did report that a tornado touched down in Manzanita, Ore., Friday morning and caused significant damage there.
NWS issued 10 tornado warnings for the overall South Washington/North Oregon region by 2 p.m. Friday. NWS said it had previously issued just five such notices total since 2005 and never more than two in one day for this region.
McDougall said residents in the direct path of any severe thunderstorm are automatically notified by phone or text; “basically the reverse 911 system, if you will,” McDougall said. Cell phone users and internet phone subscribers need to sign up for a notification by going to the PCEMA website and following the Emergency Notification System link.
McDougall urged coastal residents to prepare as soon as possible for this weekend’s extreme weather event an reminded the public that “we live in an area where the wind may blow and we may end up isolated.”
PCEMA urges residents to stay inside and avoid travel wherever possible. McDougall said residents should be prepared for the possibility of extended power outages. That means having canned foods, water, and fuel available for several days. Prescriptions should be filled and personal safety should be everyone’s primary concern, said McDougall.
Pacific County Emergency Management Agency officials convened an online conference with representatives from the National Weather Service branch in Portland early Friday afternoon in anticipation of worsening storm conditions expected Saturday. The latest information is posted at the PCEM Facebook page and also at pacificcountysheriff.com.
In light of that meeting, PCEMA decided to decline from posting further thunderstorm warnings and focused on the threat of tornadoes. PCEMA officials will continue to post updates on their Facebook page.
PCEMA warned people to stay away from the beach, as a very high tide is expected Friday with dangerous surf through the weekend.
NWS advised PCEMA that a damaging and dangerous storm is expected for Saturday. The most current forecast predicts strong south winds at 40 to 50 mph with gusts up to 90 mph. The highest winds are expected to occur between noon and 8 p.m. Saturday.
Long Beach city crews were working hard over the last few days to make sure storm drains were clear and city vehicles and fire and emergency response rigs were fueled up and ready to go. Mayor Jerry Phillips said extra personnel will be on call through Friday and Saturday.
He reported two trees down on Sandridge Road that have since been cleared. One pump station temporarily lost power but was back up and running by Friday morning. “There’s so much water going into the system that the motor’s running 24 hours just to keep up with the storm water,” Phillips said.
The mayor said the biggest problem so far was trash cans and associated debris being blown all over the place. Phillips said he felt crews were prepared but on call for worsening weather.
“We feel good and we look good right now,” Phillips said.