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The Other Insane Oregon Coast Storm: One Year Before the Great Gale

Published 04/08/2020 at 5:24 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

The Other Insane Oregon Coast Storm: One Year Before the Great Gale

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(Oregon Coast) – The Great Gale of ‘07 has been the benchmark by which all Oregon coast storms are judged and compared, ever since it tore up chunks of the coastline, flattened acres of forest along Highway 26 and knocked out power for a week to some areas. The stories from the Great Coastal Gale of ‘07 are varied and wild, like one woman seeing her dog getting lifted up in the air by hurricane force winds. (Above: massive storm surge in Newport covers Jump-Off Joe in December of 2006).

Before that storm, everything was judged by the destruction of the 1995 event that, among other things, tore off the roof of a restaurant in Newport. But in the early 2000s, it seems Mother Nature was gearing up for something worse. Other storms were picking up speed each winter, and now in retrospect scientists say it’s a clear pattern of those years that are neither La Nino nor La Nina mixed with climate change: both situations create wilder weather swings.

Yet one storm just about as bad happened a year before 2007: the mammoth tempest of 2006, which for only a year allowed people to say “this was as bad as the 1995 storm.”

Oregon Coast Beach Connection had just gotten its start and reported extensively on the event, which took place from Thursday, December 14 to Friday the 15th.

According to those reports:

Gusts above 100 mph were reported throughout the overnight hours and massive power outages took hold from Lincoln City to Astoria. Trees getting knocked over and then taking out power lines were largely responsible. Power wouldn’t be restored until about Sunday or Monday for some areas.

Thrashed forests and snow in the Coast Range wreaked its own kind of havoc. 45 miles of Highway 6 were shut down until around 4:30 p.m. Friday, December 15. Earlier that night, about 100 tourists and coastal residents were trapped in the coast range on Highway 26, and around 75 of them spent the night at restaurant Camp 18. That highway also saw large amounts of snow as low as 1000 feet, creating blizzard-like conditions when combined with the high winds hitting the coast range.

Barbara Shaw, owner of a BnB in Arch Cape back then, said it was worse than the big one of 1995 and the worst she’d ever seen. She’d been in the area since about the ‘30s at least.

Shaw said she and her family went to replace the top of a neighbor’s hot tub and discovered a flying branch and gone through the window. Her son Bob Shaw said a gargantuan, two hundred-year-old tree in Seaside had toppled on the south end.

The power outage contributed to at least two deaths on the coast. A house fire in Seaside killed two people in the home. The cause was apparently burning candles in the middle of the darkness.

Ocean swells reached 40 feet throughout the night, which officials back then believed contributed to the destruction of a catamaran yacht that beached in Lincoln City. Three crewmembers were missing as of that Friday – later reports on this could not be found.

Newport missed a lot of the brunt of the storm, at least in terms of damage.

Back in 2006, Lorna Davis was the director of the Newport Chamber. Oregon Coast Beach Connection called her office for information that Friday and staff said she was trapped in Lincoln City because her car ran out of gas. With no electricity in town gas pumps weren't working, so a staff member was on their way to rescue her.

Later, she recounted driving along Highway 20 and compared the windy chaos to something out of the Wizard of Oz.

South of Lincoln City was where “civilization” began again, with most everything from Depoe Bay southward still having power. Peg Leoni was the owner of Troller’s Lodge at the time and had some interesting tales to tell, like seeing all the needles from the Christmas tree at the Whale Watch Center getting blown off.

“The red bell buoy that is normally anchored a half mile out is now close to the rocks opposite the 101/Bay Street traffic light,” said Leoni. “Our neighbors, the Overmeyer's, thought it was unusually loud yesterday morning. Well, it was right below their oceanfront home.

“Later yesterday morning it migrated north, past the entrance to the harbor.”

Still, Newport resident Guy DiTorrice didn’t think this measured up to the ‘95 chaos at all. During that event, he was head of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, and it was his yard where the roof of a local pizza shop landed in that mid 1990s storm.

“It may have seemed that way, but in terms of damage – no,” DiTorrice said.

Little did anyone know, Mother Nature was behind the scenes and humming the old ‘70s tune “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.” Less than a year later came the Great Gale. More photos of wild storms below:

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The Other Insane Oregon Coast Storm: One Year Before the Great Gale

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