flocks to Oregon port
to see Mighty Mo
Follow progress online withBy Gregg K. Kakesako
Nearly 100,000 tourists are expected to converge on the tiny Oregon resort town of Astoria during the five days the historic battleship will be berthed there, pumping a nearly $7 million unexpected windfall into its economy.
This is after an overwhelming crowd of more than 8,000 people visited the battleship yesterday, said Bob Filori, chairman of the Port of Astoria Commission.
He estimated that another 12,000 people couldn't get on the ship and could only photograph it from the docks.
"It was a very fantastic day," he said. "It also was an extremely positive day."
"The hotels are booked solid through the weekend," said Filori in a telephone interview. "There is an average half-hour to one-hour wait for restaurants. All our shop owners love it."
He said Astoria officials had estimated that 40,000 people would visit the Missouri during its five-day port call.
"Tourism is our base," Filori said, "and we are very pleased.... We would love to have it here for a year."
Roy Yee, president of the Hawaii-based USS Missouri Association, said: "This town has embraced this ship. I don't think they want us to leave."
"Nobody would have guessed this many people would come by on a Thursday," Yee said in a telephone interview.
"It's unbelievable -- and we still have a weekend."
Filori said the two highways leading to the resort town of nearly 13,000 were backed up for 15 miles on one road and 23 miles on the other.
Adjustments have been made to the schedule to bus in schoolchildren between 8 to 10 a.m. and then open the ship to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., he said.
The 887-foot-long dreadnought left its Puget Sound Naval Shipyard berth on Saturday.
It is making a brief stopover in Astoria so the Columbia River's fresh water can wash off marine organisms that have accumulated on its hull while it was tied up in Bremerton, Wash., for the past six years.
It arrived in Astoria Tuesday and will leave June 3 on its nearly monthlong Pacific transit to Pearl Harbor. The 58,000-ton battlewagon will be towed by a nearly 150-foot-long tug.
Visitors were permitted to walk the battleship's main deck today and touch the ship's 16-inch guns. They also could view the famed "surrender deck" where World War II officially came to an end with the Japanese surrender in 1945.
"The four Iowa-class battleships of World War II are all great, but the Missouri is truly special," said Jerry Ostermiller, Columbia River Maritime Museum director.
"The Missouri has become a national icon because it symbolizes American military power, the closure of World War II and the Pacific development that has occurred since then.
"To be able to walk the deck, touch the 16-inch guns and stand where the surrender ceremony took place is to experience a piece of American history."
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