YACHATS — After making it through a night that saw howling wind cause many downed trees, campers at Cape Perpetua Campground in the Siuslaw National Forest were safe, but unable to leave the campground Tuesday morning. Several trees blocked the road.
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Deputy David Boys worked alongside the crew of Yachats Rural Fire Protection District Engine 8211 with chainsaws to clear the road late Tuesday morning. Grateful campers were lined up to exit the campground shortly before noon.
A couple from Eugene had their 10-day road trip interrupted when a tree fell on their truck while they were in the camper behind it. The McMillan’s pickup along with the kayak on top were crushed by a large tree. Remaining in their camper behind the truck throughout the storm, even when the tree crashed down so close, it was scary to think of going outside in the dark, they related, not knowing when or from where the next tree was going to come.
The McMillans were smiling and cheerful, in very good spirits, especially considering they narrowly escaped being crushed by a tree, their vacation was interrupted, their truck was destroyed and they were without a way to get their camper back to Eugene. They prayed, the couple explained, telling the News-Times they feel very fortunate.
Laurie and Steve Payne, of Spokane, were camped in the spot next to the McMillans. “It was terrifying,” Laurie told the News-Times. “All night long there were trees coming down.”
“You’d hear them going off like gunshots. Bam,” Steve said of the trees falling. The Paynes rode out the storm in the cab of their camper, thinking that was the safest place. “We watched the tree move back and forth until it came down,” Steve said. Not sure if the tree struck the McMillan’s trailer, Steve checked on them to be sure they were ok. The McMillan’s camper was unscathed.
Another couple camping in a tent nearby told the News-Times the wind started around 8 p.m. on Monday, and that most of the trees fell around 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. “We got out at midnight and slept in our car because it was so scary,” said a camper, asking not to be identified.
While many were eager to leave the campground when the fire crew and deputy cleared the road, the Paynes weren’t in a hurry. They planned to stay another night, and were reluctant to drive their top-heavy RV in the wind. “There’s no way we want to get out on 101. We heard it was closed anyway. We’re just hunkering down,” Steve said.
LCSO Sgt. Rick Ballantine told the News-Times it was a situation occurring countywide, with fire districts and municipal, county and state law enforcement agencies working together to clear roads and respond to emergencies. Ballantine said there were between 30 and 50 campers trapped behind the downed trees in the campground. “We’re working together and doing our best,” said Ballantine. A first responder was injured, he reported, noting few reported injuries due to the wind.