UPDATE | Hold tight: More wind expected to hit Whidbey today
November 17, 2010 · 9:12 AM
Another windstorm is predicted to hit from the south sometime today in the wake of a sudden blow Monday night that caused an island-wide power outage on Whidbey.
Dennis D’Amico of the National Weather Service in Seattle said Tuesday that southeast winds are forecast at 20 to 30 miles per hour today, with gusts to 45 mph.
“This one will come from a more normal direction,” D’Amico said. “It’s pretty common this time of year.”
He said Monday’s windstorm was anything but common. A severe low-pressure system out of the east swept past British Columbia, rapidly pushing up pressure in the west, D’Amico said.
The result was sudden gusts that swept across Whidbey on Monday night, knocking down trees, branches and power lines and leaving more than 1,500 customers in the dark in the Langley area alone.
“It came up a little stronger than expected,” D’Amico said. “It was a very quick transition.”
Power was knocked out in the Langley area about 8:30 p.m. Monday. The outage eventually spread across the island. Power was still out from Greenbank south by 7:30 Tuesday morning.
Deputy Chief Jon Beck of Island County Fire District 3 said firefighters responded to more than 20 calls of trees and branches down on roads and power lines between 8:30 p.m. and midnight Monday.
A tree with power lines entwined forced the closure of a half-mile of Langley Road between Maxwelton Road and Zig Zag Lane, Beck said.
Similar conditions forced brief closures of sections of Lancaster Road, Lakeside Drive in the Goss Lake area and Saratoga Road in the Fox Spit area, he said.
Beck said firefighters removed trees and limbs from several other South End roads.
“But if power lines are involved, we have to leave them for Puget Sound Energy,” he said, because of the danger that the lines may be live.
Beck said that although trees took the brunt of the storm, there was little property damage and no injuries reported.
He said the only report of a tree on a house was from one of District 3’s own crew members.
He said Brandon Callahan returned to his house on Andreason Road after spending three hours clearing debris to find a 20-inch diameter tree on his roof. The roof was punctured, but there was little other damage, Beck said.
He praised the response of the firefighters to the storm, despite being caught offguard.
“It was a surprise,” he said. “It came through pretty quickly. The volunteers did a great job stepping up to the plate.”
He said all the major roads in the South End were passable by Tuesday morning, although some smaller roads were still littered with fallen tree debris.
“The smaller roads don’t pose much of a danger,” Beck said.
Monday’s windstorm had a ripple effect on South End life.
The lights went out during the Langley City Council meeting, shortly after Police Chief Bob Herzberg had finished talking about his budget and grant funding. It had helped pay for an emergency generator for city hall that gave the whole building enough juice so it wouldn’t become a “meat locker” during winter outages, he noted.
The blackout hit city hall at 8:36 p.m., and when the generator kicked in and the lights came back on a moment later, all eyes turned to Herzberg.
Herzberg raised his arms triumphantly in the air and grinned.
“Is God on your side or what?” asked Mayor Paul Samuelson.
Council members were so impressed, they decided to continue their meeting, despite the growing darkness in the rest of town.
Drivers swerved to avoid tree debris on several main roadways beginning Monday night. Darkened traffic lights had drivers treating intersections like four-way stops.
The blackout forced South Whidbey School District officials to cancel all classes for the day on Tuesday.
Lines formed for gasoline early Tuesday morning at the Short Stop Texaco in Freeland, one of the few stations that were operating under generator power. Some customers were getting gas for their own generators.
Puget Sound Energy reported on its website that more than 140,000 customers lost power during the peak of the storm that hit several counties in its service area Monday night.
By 8 a.m. Tuesday, 60,000 customers in 115 locations across Western Washington, including portions of South Whidbey, remained without power, PSE said. The company expected to restore the bulk of the service by late Tuesday.
The company said the greatest storm damage occurred in southeast King County, east Pierce County, Olympia, Rochester, Yelm, South Whidbey and east of Concrete.
PSE expected to have 77 four-person line crews working to restore the outages by midday Tuesday.