Courtesy NOAA
The Tahola Seawall, the only thing standing between the Quinault Indian Nation and the encroaching ocean, stayed firm during punishing storms over the weekend—but only because the tempest was not as strong as expected.

Typhoon Songda Remnants Slam Coast, Spare Washington State Tribes

Terri Hansen
10/17/16

It wasn’t the megastorm packing 150-mph winds and 50-foot waves that some meteorologists had predicted, but the storms that first came onshore to the West Coast on October 13 still packed a one-two punch, with hurricane-force winds and 30-foot waves.

The tribal nations most at risk were those located on the Washington coast: the Quinault, Hoh, Quileute, and Makah. The Quinault braced for the worst after winds and high waves battered their main oceanfront village, Taholah, and its seawall on Thursday. But in spite of gusts of up to 90 mph along the coast and 30-foot waves, the seawall held, sparing the village’s 1,000 residents and tribal administration offices. And a mega monster storm predicted for Saturday October 15 was not as strong as had been feared.

The series of storms were fueled by remnants of super typhoon Songda, which originated in the Pacific Ocean near Japan. Weaker storms were expected for several days beyond this report, and Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp said they cannot let their guard down.

“But if the sea wall continues to hold, as it now it appears it will, things look a lot better than they did with previous predictions,” she said in a statement.

The Chinook, Shoalwater Bay and Swinomish tribes near the Washington coast were also in high risk zones for heavy rains, flooding and high winds, but were spared the worst because Saturday’s storm didn’t pack the wallop many had feared.

Forecasters had said Saturday’s storm could have been one of the strongest storms in Pacific Northwest history, but it veered about 50 miles off the coast from what computer models had predicted, and that’s all it took to tame it, Seattle’s KING TV reported.

“It did not produce as much wind as we expected,” said KING meteorologist Rich Marriott. “The wolf was out there, he just decided not to blow our house down today.”

While the storm still caused some damage as far inland as Interstate 5, which runs parallel to the coast roughly 80–100 miles inland, a storm as strong as the one originally predicted had the potential to devastate as many as 30 tribes in Washington, Oregon and Northern California. The area still suffered heavy rains that at times became deluges that floated cars, and winds that toppled trees and downed wires. Mudslides were reported in Washington, and several rivers had crested in Oregon and Washington. A few injuries were reported in Washington.

According to the Associated Press, tens of thousands of homes were without power. The storms spawned two tornadoes on the Oregon coast, according to the National Weather Service, one that damaged nearly 150 homes and injured a child, and the other setting down just up the coast from the Siletz Indian Reservation.

High winds also reached parts of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming, where wildfires were burning across the region. A wildfire in the mountains near the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Nevada that on started October 14 spread rapidly, thanks to winds gusts of more than 70 mph, according to multiple news sources. The wildfire was nearly contained by the weekend.

Follow Terri Hansen on Twitter @TerriHansen.

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