By Brian Cameron
In what was likely one of the most infamous moments to ever grace the sandy shores of Manzanita, last October a tornado, out of all things possible, whipped up over the salty sea and came careening right into downtown Manzanita.
Checking in with some of the affected local business owners and city officials of Manzanita, the six-month anniversary of the event is coming up and many questions still remain about the progress of recovery the community is making and how things are looking at the start of this year’s tourist season.
“Spring Break came at a great time for us, the weather couldn’t be better,” Dan Haag, Manzanita Visitor’s Center Representative, said. “There was a changing of perception about the state of Manzanita and whether or not we were even still here, but if this last push of visitors is any indication we’re looking to be back on track for the busy season.”
Haag was referring to how, in the wake of the tornado, many people from outside of the area assumed the worst and that the entire town had effectively been wiped off the map, thankfully that wasn’t the case.
Local businesses were some of the worst affected in the unusual event as roofs were collapsed, trees snarled and snapped and much of the structure’s interiors were relegated to the elements as the twister powered through the downtown area.
“We’re feeling a bit displaced,” Wisteria owner Debra Stephens said. “For me the tornado wasn’t what caused the most damage, it was the torrential rains afterward that destroyed a great deal of my store’s products.”
Stephens cited the helpful community coming together afterward, how Sunset Vacation Rentals allowed her to use an alternate location on Laneda Avenue and her businesses insurer who worked with her throughout the entire process to make sure she was doing business once again.
Much of the effort both immediately after the tornado and the ongoing community response can be attributed toward the Nehalem Bay Emergency Volunteer Corps who ran to act as an important stop-gap before official incident command could be put into place. They facilitated traffic control, agency and city communication and even provided food for hard working utility district employees who were working around the clock to mitigate the damage done by the twister.
“The community really stepped up to help, we were rich with volunteers both during and after the event,” said EVC President Linda Kozlowski. “Despite it being a tragic event for Manzanita the response really brought out the best in everyone, I feel our community really had a chance to really shine.” Kozlowski said. “After eight years of steadfast training for disastrous events we realized what we were doing actually worked, and it was very heartening.”
Speaking on behalf of the City of Manzanita, long time City Manager Jerry Taylor had nothing but what sounded like good news but noted some issues that were experienced as a result of the unexpected disaster.
“For some folks the recovery went a little slower than they had liked,” said Taylor. “I had heard about some insurance issues experienced by some as well as a general shortage of construction contractors available to aid in actually rebuilding some of the businesses.”
Taylor had mentioned there were a few questions about tree debris and whether or not land owners could burn large piles on their private property, but the city worked with the State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to bring in professional wood chipping contractors as well as the city council decided they would not enact a ban on burning so long as the land owner could acquire a Provisional Burn Permit from Nehalem Bay Fire Station.
Some have asked Taylor whether or not the winter’s tornado activity could be a sign of things to come to Manzanita and whether or not this might be an indication of a globally changing climate. According to Taylor it wasn’t exactly clear if the tornado activity was linked to a warming climate but he mentioned there were a total of 13 separate reports of waterspout activity that day and in addition to the one that hit in Oceanside the tornado that impacted Manzanita would be on people’s minds for years to come.
“Out of the event, I can safely say that we are still here and Manzanita is open for businesses,” said Taylor. “We may have a few Band-Aids and an excess of firewood but we are indeed still here.”