A storm with the potential to be among the top 10 in Western Washington history for its strength is taking aim at the coast, according to the National Weather Service.
As if the 24-hour deluge of Thursday night and Friday weren’t enough, Saturday’s promised “historic” storm continues to line up as forecast.
The last storms of this potential magnitude merited names: the 2006 Chanukah Eve storm, which killed four people, and the 1993 Inauguration Day Storm, which killed five people, according to meteorologist Cliff Mass.
Most wind storm fatalities occur outdoors, including cars hit by trees. The weather service is advising people to stay off the roads until the storm has passed. Thurston County’s parks will be closed through Monday morning because of the forecast.
A high wind warning is in effect for Western Washington for Saturday afternoon and night. Forecasts from the University of Washington expect gusts of more than 70 mph on the southern Washington coast at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Thurston County will feel the brunt of it by 7 p.m., when gusts of 50-60 mph are forecast over the Puget Sound region. Northwest Washington and the coast could get even higher winds.
Sea swells as high as 20 feet and beach erosion are expected. Clam diggers are advised to be extremely cautious.
By 9 p.m., the worst should be over.
“There will be extra people here all weekend to track this thing and see what’s going on,” said Art Gaebel, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Seattle.
If the forecast is correct, several hundred thousand people in western Washington will lose power, Mass said.
“I would expect the power to go out if it’s the worst-case scenario,” Gaebel said. “Prepare for a few hours or maybe a day or so.”
Local nonprofit and faith community leaders on Friday opened extra emergency shelter beds and warming centers for people without shelter. They urged anyone in need of shelter to call the Coordinated Entry Housing Hotline at 844-628-7343 for information about emergency shelter locations.
Community Youth Services Young Adult Shelter planned to accommodate additional youth ages 18-24, and Family Support Center’s Pear Blossom Place will accommodate additional families with children and pregnant women.
Single individuals and couples may go to First Christian Church at 701 Franklin St. SE in downtown Olympia. Pastor Amy Walters, in partnership with Interfaith Works Executive Director Danny Kadden, opened the church’s social hall starting at 5 p.m.
“Due to the severe storm predicted, tonight (Friday) is declared a ‘Cold Weather’ night and thus we are activating our local emergency shelter response system earlier than usual. We don’t want anyone to suffer or be hurt out there,” Schelli Slaughter said in the news release. Slaughter is the chair of the Homeless Housing Hub, a large network of shelter, housing, social service providers, emergency responders, local government representatives, and homeless advocates.
The centers are prepared to be open throughout the weekend, depending on how the storm progresses. Information will be updated on the hotline daily.
South Sound residents got a taste of what’s to come late Thursday and early Friday. Rainfall at the Olympia Airport measured about 1.5 inches in the 24 hours ending at 2 p.m. Friday, Gaebel said. Thunder woke many early Friday, and winds gusted.
But it was the Oregon coastal towns that were hit the hardest by the first wave of storms.
A tornado struck Manzanita on the northern Oregon coast about 8:20 a.m. Friday. There were no reports of injuries.
Debbie Harmon, owner of the Amanita Galley, said, “It was a normal beach storm, which we get a lot of, and then out of nowhere the wind went ‘whoooo.’ Suddenly the whole sky was filled with debris. It was just crazy. And then it just stopped.”
Two businesses were destroyed and one home is uninhabitable. He says other homes have roof damage. The Red Cross opened a shelter for those affected.
In Seattle, a 4-year-old boy and his father were injured by a falling tree branch. The Seattle Fire Department said the child suffered serious injuries and the father minor injuries.