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Authorities searching for elderly missing Bellingham woman in remote coastal county

The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office is searching for missing 78-year-old Joann W. Nelson of Bellingham. Nelson has been missing since Wednesday, and as of Friday afternoon, had not been found. She now has gray hair.
The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office is searching for missing 78-year-old Joann W. Nelson of Bellingham. Nelson has been missing since Wednesday, and as of Friday afternoon, had not been found. She now has gray hair. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Law enforcement authorities in Grays Harbor County are searching a remote area north of Aberdeen for a missing Bellingham woman.

Joann W. Nelson, 78, was reported missing by Bellingham Police Wednesday and was possibly last seen walking on Polson Camp Road around 3:30 p.m. that day, according to the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office.

Nelson was last seen wearing a dark colored windbreaker, shirt, pants and was carrying a dark backpack. She is described as a white female, 5-foot-5 and 135 pounds with brown eyes and gray hair, the sheriff’s office said. They added that Nelson is bipolar and is not taking her medication.

Nelson’s vehicle was found abandoned on US Highway 101 at milepost 95.5 on Wednesday. The Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office was later contacted by Bellingham police, informing them that the vehicle was associated with a missing person, and law enforcement determined that Nelson spent Tuesday night at a hotel in Ocean Shores.

Nelson’s phone was tracked, and it showed her in the area of Polson Camp Road, but due to the area being remote and a lack of cell towers, the accuracy is low and the phone could be located within a four-mile radius, the sheriff’s office said.

A search and rescue mission was started to find Nelson using ground and vehicle searchers, as well as bloodhounds. A military helicopter scheduled for a training mission also flew over the area with a heat-seeking camera, the sheriff’s office said.

As of Friday afternoon, Nelson has not been found, and the search was continuing. Anyone with information about Nelson is asked to call 360-533-8765.

Reporter Denver Pratt joined The Bellingham Herald in 2017 and covers courts and criminal and social justice. She has worked in Montana, Florida and Virginia.
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