Astoria building inspector survives being zapped by lightningJim Byerley didn't hear the huge thunderclap that startled Astoria at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
That's because he had already been struck by the lightning bolt that preceded it - and was lying unconscious in a mud puddle.
Byerley was on Birch Street for a building inspection when it happened.
"It was raining when I got out of the car," he said today. "I started across the street. Then the whole world turned white - bright white! The next thing I know, I wake up lying in a puddle on the side of the road."
Byerley said he had a little trouble walking when he got up, but nevertheless was able to drive. After stopping at home to change his clothes, he drove back to Astoria City Hall, where City Engineer Mike Caccavano noticed he seemed shaky and disoriented.
"He said all his muscles hurt, as if they all had charley horses," Caccavano said. So he drove Byerley to the emergency room at Columbia Memorial Hospital.
Byerley took the rest of the day off, but the intrepid building inspector is back on the job today, just a little worse for wear.
The incident was the most spectacular as the storm pelted the North Coast with rain and simultaneous hail, caused high-water worries in Cannon Beach and flooded parts of Tillamook County, then abated so residents could enjoy balmy walks in the sunshine that followed.
Seaside beaches were cordoned off late morning today and salt spray was piled against the base of the Promenade where a high wave crashed.
"For God's sake, stay off the beach," City Manager Mark Winstanley said.
The U.S. Coast Guard has restricted the Tillamook Bar to all vessels. No one can cross either in or out, said Auxiliary member Ray Neubig. He added that it's not unusual to restrict the bar during this time of year.
The Coast Guard has issued a small craft advisory for the Columbia River Bar.
"It's kicking right now 14 and 18 feet in some places," said Seaman Adam Tazelaar, who is stationed at Cape Disappointment, Wash.
It's been kind of a quiet year for heavy surf, said Dave Elson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Portland. But he said residents will see some of the heaviest seas of the season today.
Already, 24-foot seas were recorded at Buoy 29, which is 20 miles off the mouth of the Columbia River. One of the highest tides of the year was 9.1 feet at the Astoria port docks at 10:22 a.m. today. A 9.5-foot tide is expected there at 11 a.m. Friday.
At Fort Stevens State Park in Warrenton, Mike Stein, assistant area manager for the North Coast, said park rangers are cautioning people that today is not a good day to venture out on the beach.
Robert Smith, beach safety education coordinator for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, said some Oregon beaches may be closed for safety.
"We anticipate when we have weather like this, we're going to have storm watchers," he said. "We just want to remind people to use common sense."
That means being aware that waves can reach much higher ground than usual and that logs are particularly unstable, he said.
The storm buffed the Willamette Valley. Portland recorded .78 inch of rain in the 24 hours ended at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and heavier amounts are expected for today. Rain on parts of the coast was much more dramatic, with 2.81 inches falling in Tillamook.
Weather forecasters said the freezing level will rise through today and Friday.
The Daily Astorian reporter Leanne Josephson, the Associated Press and The Oregonian contributed to this story.