Up the Beach — January’s false spring makes one wonder what February will bring

What a January! The weather bounces around like a ball tied to a ping-pong paddle with a rubber band. Cold. Freezing. Windy. Spring warm. Warm enough to see daffodils poking up three-inches high in a lot of North Beach folks’ yards.

Sure don’t want to get too frisky over that fact because it is still January on the beach. Heaven only knows what will blow in from the Southwest or come roaring down the coast from the Arctic.

Winds and warnings

For January, it is not surprising that small craft warnings have been issued off the coast and the Grays Harbor bar is roaring enough to keep the Ocean Shores folks awake in the wee morning hours.

One thing missing though, is the old Westport Lighthouse “beeep-booop” of the foghorn. Wonder what happened to it? Somehow it was comforting in the bad weather. And, doggone it, you can’t drive down to the marina and see which storm flag is waving over the restaurant.

The high-wind warning out of the Bonneville Power Administration did cause the Washington Department of Fish &Wildlife to modify haul boat provisions so crabbers could use them to assist in setting their gear until the end of last week. Radar Ridge reported peak winds of 60 to 90 mph last week.

Big 1950 blizzard

It brings to mind the blizzard that hit Grays Harbor January 13, 1950. A blinding blizzard driven by 60-70 mph winds sank and/or grounded 12 to 15 boats over at Westport in those days before the Ocean Shores had a marina fleet.

The blizzard damaged docks and floats, and broke the Pearl Pacific Company barge from its moorings. It was crabbing season and the heavy gear aboard the boats broke through side rails and was dumped overboard. Trolling poles were snapped off like toothpicks in the wind.

The poor Coasties and fishers who swarmed to the docks to try to save boats and equipment quickly turned into popsicles from the wind-whipped spray and the 19-degree temperatures.

In Seattle a man was thrown by the wind over the Lake Washington Bridge and drowned after a car wreck.

A store in Vashon toppled into the sea. Logs freed by the storm from a huge log boom pounded Tacoma’s Ruston Way, resulting in undermining the street.

Locally, C.C. Coghline in Ocosta said he hadn’t seen anything like it since he left Minnesota 60 years previously. E.B. Crary, Grays Harbor’s own weather observer, said he hadn’t seen anything like it in 42 tears.

All of the schools along the coast were closed. The Blue-Gray Stage Line was still plugging away, all the way to Lake Quinault and, unbelievably, the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph North Beach phone lines were all intact.

Raymond and South Bend weren’t so lucky. The snow drifted to three feet high and closed down the roads. A bone-chilling British Columbia cold wave sent Grays Harbor snow that blew almost horizontally.

So, all the beachers should acquiesce to history and be thankfully for the current bouncing ball weather and not sit around kvetching over coffee cups.

Coastal crabbing

The coastal crab season came later than usual this year and with all the Seahawk fervor, most folks didn’t look out along the coast to see the boat’s twinkling lights at sunrise and sunset.

Hopefully the fishers are having a pretty good season with a $3 per pound price for their catch. It’s not easy when a crab pot, buoy, bait can and line sets a guy back $200 or more.

God bless the beachers who find a buoyed crab pot and check with the Westport Marina to return the pots to fishers instead of using them for a garden decoration.

Fowl in flight

It seems odd with all the high winds that so many gaggles of geese are heading north. It is still a sight that stirs the heart. The little birds have been huddling up under overhanging branches to keep warm.

The water birds and ducks are seen circling on the protected side of the swales and ponds along the beach areas. They seem so happy with their heads facing into the wind as they dip and dive for food.

Out along SR 109 just north of Burrows Road, a big, fat Red-tailed hawk has staked out his territory to hunt along the road. The food must be good because he is developing a big belly and has lost his quick glide off the electric wires. It’s now more like a slovenly swoop. But, he continues to sit there day after day.

Trees topping

One thing, the unseasonably balmy weather seems to have been very good for the evergreen trees. The tops of the Sitka spruce and the Douglas fir are climbing four feet above last fall’s growth.

Still possum pondering

Brock Hoenes, district wildlife biologist for Pacific and Grays Harbor Counties, provided information in my previous column on the opossums disappearing from the beach. Dianna Moore reports she has noticed the lack of the little critters, as well. She did report seeing one dead on SR155 by Nancy’s Stables.

A few sightings on the Quinault Rez were reported a year ago. So, some of the beachers are still wondering why.

Beaches barren

Something else not spotted, is interesting stuff on the beach. There has been some pretty high surf and deep wave troughs, but so far no one is using their bragging rights to tell what they found. The annual Beachcomber’s Fun Fair isn’t that far away and how in the heck can one win a blue ribbon if there is only kelp on the beach?

Elk crossing caution collars

In the cold weather wondering department, the cars plowing into the elk herd at Satsop and killing seven elk makes one think of the Sequim elk signals. Why haven’t we figured out a way to warn traffic on that highway?

So, what if the WDFW worked with a couple of the insurance companies who insure drivers in our area to solicit donations to collar a few of the lead cows in the Satsop bunch with electronic collars that trigger a flashing caution sign, similar to the one up by Sequim, that warns when elk are near the highway?

Doug Zimmer, USFWS, wonders about it, too. He points out that it would likely save lives — both human and elk — and vehicle/insurance/response dollars. The money spent on one big crash like the one that just occurred could likely fund a warning program for years and the insurance companies could get a lot of nice press out of it. Seeing as how the beachers’ only industry is tourism, one thinks perhaps it would provide a tourist attraction, plus bring in a lot of positive publicity.

And, one thing about thinking about elk and possums, it sure takes your mind off the weather.

Gene Woodwick may be reached at 360-289-2805 or genewoodwick@coastaccess.com.


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