When the weather report came in, I decided the easiest thing to get for myself in the event that I was out of power for a little while would be easy “cheese” — you know, the stuff that comes in a can and doesn’t have to be refrigerated — and a loaf of bread for cheese sandwiches.
I bought my first camping lantern, brought my sleeping bag in from my car, plugged in my laptop, and taped my windows because I’d never been in a storm like was predicted.
I remember the lights flickering out, and the wind making my apartment sway enough that I felt seasick. Waking up in the morning and heading to the Seaside Signal office, the first thing I remember seeing that suggested it was a doozy of a storm was the huge pine in front of the office uprooted in the parking lot.
As more light came, more damage showed. Stops at city hall, the police and fire departments confirmed there was no power and that an emergency shelter was being set up. From there on out, the shelter was my first stop every morning. The radio was the other vital part of the information train. Everywhere I went had a radio on so that updates could be heard quickly; the hum of the radios became an almost constant background noise.
What struck me most was the sense of community throughout the whole immediate aftermath and the longer cleanup. Having moved to Seaside to work, getting through the storm with everyone else made me a local, not a tourist. Maybe because we all went through things together, maybe because when I wasn’t working I went to the shelter to help make meals.
Coverage and reporting was tricky. You couldn’t make phone calls or send emails. As I remember it, U.S. Highway 101 was closed for a few days, so I was standing on the beach sending my reports to The Daily Astorian via text message, taking my own humble photos, and doing a lot of literal footwork for every story before returning to my dark, cold apartment to wash my hair in cold water in my bathroom sink and snuggle into my sleeping bag at curfew each night.
On day three or four, when 101 was reopened, I drove my story notes to the Astoria office, typing on the shared computer and grateful for the warmth of the office. Whether it was a story about chopping tree debris or flipping pancakes, every story seemed critically important through that time.
When the power came back on in Astoria, I’d never been more thankful for the offer to stay in a hotel. I’ll always be thankful for the paper putting me up for two nights. Having access to heat and hot water felt unbelievably luxurious after a week in the dark and cold!
Pamela Robel is a writer based in Moses Lake, Washington. She was The Daily Astorian’s Seaside-based South County reporter in 2007.