Storm Causes $2 Million in Damages to Historic Astoria, Oregon

Posted on: January 2nd, 2008 by Margaret Foster

astoria.jpgAstoria, Ore., is still picking up the pieces after a storm pounded the Pacific Coast city of 10,000 last month."I was proud of this town," says John Guttenberger, former president of the Lower Columbia Preservation Society. "The storefronts were blown out, and rather than looting, people were putting things back in stores. It was really quite sweet. It was a nice bonding experience in its own strange way … It was like waking up in Who-ville."

With winds topping 100 miles an hour, the Dec. 2 storm caused $14 million in damages, according to a preliminary report the city sent to the state historic preservation office on Monday.

"Our preliminary estimate for historic properties is around $2 million, and there would be approximately 99 damaged properties," says Brett Estes, the city's community development director. Trained volunteers helped assess the city's structures.

"When you consider that we were under duress for 30 hours, our older buildings did really well," Guttenberger says. "We could have had a lot more damage if we were a newer community."

The building that took the biggest hit was a Columbia River "net loft" built to store fishermen's supplies in 1897. Two artists, whose studios are in the converted loft, spent a harrowing night trying to protect the building and eventually evacuated it after a gust blew a wall down. One artist broke his arm in the storm. (The building was the site of a National Trust Preservation Leadership Training several years ago.)

"I think there will be some community fundraising to repair the building," Guttenberger says. "It's an icon."

As for the cleanup efforts, the city "is in transition," Estes says. "I'm looking out my window now and one of the taller buildings in town still has plywood on the upper windows. There still is evidence of the damage."

Watch a video of the artists' plight

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