The storm that hit the Twin Harbors on Thursday morning knocked out power to thousands of homes, brought minor tidal flooding to several areas and toppled trees, causing road closures.
In good news/bad news terms, that’s actually the good news. Forecasters had warned that it might be worse.
High winds began hitting the coast about breakfast time and stirred up an impressive surf at the coast, but caused no serious damage. The mid-morning high tide was predicted to be 10.5 feet in Aberdeen and the wind and barometric pressure caused it to rise about 2 feet higher than that, according to Aberdeen City Engineer Kris Koski, but there was only minor tidal flooding in the usual low spots along the Chehalis and Wishkah rivers.
Rainfall wasn’t significant Thursday, but rain is predicted off and on through next Thursday.
“We certainly felt the wind throughout the county, and there were some pretty good gusts at Cape Disappointment, but it wasn’t a horrible event,” said Scott McDougall, director of Pacific County Emergency Management. “It’s the most significant storm we’ve had in a while. … We had a significant number of trees down and minor tidal overflow flooding in Raymond, but all in all I think we weathered this thing pretty well.”
Power outages were widespread, but mostly along the coast. At one point more than 16,000 Grays Harbor PUD customers were without power. That included the coast north and south of Grays Harbor, the Axford Prairie north toward Quinault, parts of Central Park and parts of East County.
Gusts nearing 60 mph were recorded at the coast and at Bowerman Field airport in Hoquiam.
“I think the PUD is getting a run for their money today. That’s the biggest thing right now, the wind and the power outages and downed trees,” Hannah Cleverly, deputy director of emergency management for Grays Harbor County, said on Thursday afternoon.
“We’re managing road closures,” she added. “Earlier this morning, State Route 109 was closed at Burrows Road; state Route105 in Westport. They’ve all since been reopened. DOT has done a pretty good job getting roads opened.”
In Central Park, the wind sent a trampoline flying into power lines along Highway 12.
“When you see these pictures, it’s always a great reminder to citizens that, when we put out information about watches and warnings, it’s a good (time) to look around your property and look at what kind of things could go airborne,” said Cleverly. “Even if you think it’s heavy enough, it’s always a good idea to strap things down and make sure they are secure. Also, it’s always a good reminder to get batteries and emergency supplies and make sure that they are accessible.”
The Grays Harbor bar, the treacherous point at which the outgoing Chehalis River meets the ocean, was closed to most vessels, and it didn’t look like anyone was going out, said Petty Officer Robert Beresh at Coast Guard Station Grays Harbor in Westport. The station’s 47-foot motor lifeboat went out to check the bar early Thursday morning and was scheduled to go out again just before sunset, he said.
If boats did venture out and get into trouble, “that’s what we’re here for, but we hope everybody will just anchor down and wait for the storm to pass,” Beresh said.
On Wednesday, the National Weather Service said the wind and barometric conditions — combined with typically high tides in December — could drive tides up to 3 feet higher than the forecast, which likely would have meant substantial flooding along the coast and in Aberdeen and Hoquiam.
While there was some minor flooding Thursday, and a couple of streets were temporarily reduced to one lane due to flooding, officials from both cities said the storm was milder than expected.
Koski said because the flooding was only a little more than 2 feet higher than expected, rather than 3 feet, there wasn’t nearly as much damage to local infrastructure as there could have been. “It would’ve been a completely different story” if flooding was slightly higher, he said. “We’re all breathing a sigh of relief.”
Some of the most affected areas were along the east bank of the Wishkah River near Kurt Cobain Park, where water could be seen pooling up in peoples’ backyards.
Some branches and trees also fell around the city, but not much significant damage was done.
Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay said the flooding was only minor there.
Westport was battered with strong winds and high surf, but the breakwater held firm, and extra boulders were being added to it throughout the morning from near the viewing tower east toward the observation platform on Neddie Rose Drive.
Janene Dixon, co-owner of Granny Hazel’s Candy and Gifts on Westhaven Drive, said there was some concern the combination of strong winds and a 10-foot tide might cause flooding near the marina, but that did not happen.
Gusts of 56 mph were recorded at 9:24 a.m. and 53 mph at 10:48 a.m., with sustained winds topping 40 mph at some points between 9 a.m. and noon. Despite the strong winds, Westport had not lost power as of late afternoon Thursday.
State Route 105 just west of Brady’s Oysters was closed briefly early Thursday morning when trees fell across both lanes, but it was cleared quickly, as was other road debris that closed 105 at mile marker 2 later in the morning. Utility crews could be seen working into the afternoon on leaning trees along South Montesano Street in Westport, but roadways for the most part stayed clear.