The Wild Winds of 2007

The town of Ilwaco, WA is already used to having high winds (think 80 to 90 mph) but when the winds reached 130 mph on December 2nd, 2007 the staff at Ocean Beach Hospital knew they were in for a wild ride. The Astoria Bridge, one of the most well–traveled bridges and main thoroughfares into town was closed for several hours at one point. No cell phones or long distance phone calls were made. Logs blocked roadways while many others were shut down.

The winds sustained themselves for the next two and a half to three days, leaving the hospital without power for a total of 54 hours. Generators kicked in to provide power but still things like laundry, food supplies, and deliveries were affected. Though the outside of the hospital suffered some structural damage (even one of their employees was hit and rushed to theER) the community and hospital seemed to know how to handle it.

An Urgent Care Clinic was opened and emergency preparedness supplies were quickly made available. Local HAMM radio communication was contacted immediately to spread word that not only was the hospital still operating but it was opening their lobby as a soup kitchen. Hot coffee was served, ten cots were set up, and warmth was provided for those who just needed a place to stay. “At least 200 people came through…” remarked Julie Oakes, Quality/Risk Manager at the hospital, “…about 60–80 people more a day than normal. Young kids with crazy hair were talking with the older people. People just sat around and talked!”

Even as I listened to Julie recount her experience several months later, it was clear that the storm of 2007 had lasting effects, not only with the staff of Ocean Beach but its community members as well. It’s compelling to see what people can accomplish (with a little hand from FEMA, too) when the going gets tough.

Source: Interview with Julie Oakes, Quality/Risk Manager of Ocean Beach Hospital. Story by Melanie Allred.