As wind howled and rain pounded the pavement in December 2007, Clatsop County’s entire emergency management department huddled inside a parked car to catch some sleep.
The task wasn’t too difficult — the department consisted of just one part-time employee.
Gene Strong, a retired Wahkiakum County sheriff, was the county’s emergency services coordinator. For five days, he and other North Coast residents were cut off from the rest of the world. He stayed at the sheriff’s office in Astoria to coordinate response efforts and try — often in vain — to request help from the state.
Trees littered the roadways. Communication channels went down. Two people died and thousands lacked vital resources for days. County staff scrambled to react.
Things slowly began to normalize after about a week. But as the skies became clearer, so too did the need for emergency officials to learn from the experience and make some fundamental changes.