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Twister like storm damages Langley trees

Langley city workers Tim Grove, left, and Byron Hamilton stand in the hole left when a huge fir tree uprooted and crashed during a freak storm in Langley Friday night.  - Jim Larsen / The Record
Langley city workers Tim Grove, left, and Byron Hamilton stand in the hole left when a huge fir tree uprooted and crashed during a freak storm in Langley Friday night.
— image credit: Jim Larsen / The Record

Several trees were destroyed in Langley last night by what city officials are saying may have been a twister.

"It was pretty amazing," Mayor Larry Kwarsick said. "It came out of nowhere."

It's not exactly clear when the phenomenon began but Kwarsick estimated that the event started sometime around 7:45 p.m. and lasted about 10 minutes. Most of the damage was located in the area of Sixth Street and Cascade Avenue, he said.

Kwarsick didn't personally witness any destruction as it was happening but was on a walk with his wife at the time. He said they were enjoying a beautiful evening when "out of nowhere, this really strong wind picked up."

It became so strong that it toppled a very old Douglas Fir on Cascade Avenue.  The tree was on the property of an old Langley mansion overlooking the harbor that later became an upscale eatery called The Edgecliff Bar & Grill, now closed.

Damage to the structure was minimal, with only some gutter damage caused by one of the branches, according to Langley city worker Tim Grove. Kwarsick said it also took out a power line to the building but spared a main line that provides power to the city.

The tree blocked Cascade Avenue between the mansion and the CMA church across Cascade Avenue. Police and fire emergency responders were on the scene shortly and had to close part of the street.

Grove and fellow Langley worker Byron Hamilton, who live in Coupeville, arrived shortly after the tree fell and were there until about 12:30 a.m. cutting away limbs. They returned early this morning to finish clearing the road, which was closed between Fourth and Sixth streets.

Joggers and dog walkers passed by curiously. "Smells like Christmas," one woman said. The men expected the road to be open soon, then they would start enjoying their Memorial Day weekend.

Several smaller trees reportedly fell around town and branches littered the Noble Cliff development and Edgecliff Drive. According to Kwarsick, a large Redwood tree located in the backyard of former Mayor Vicki Lash's home was also destroyed, reporting that it broke in half about fifteen feet from the base.

"It was just snapped," Kwarsick said. "It's pretty amazing."

Kwarsick said a tree on Anderson Avenue may also have been destroyed but that he wasn't aware of any injuries or damaged homes anywhere in the city.

Kwarsick said the strange storm was over as quickly as it started and it was fast a beautiful night again in Langley. Having grown up in the Midwest and seeing firsthand large tornados in action, Kwarsick said this was not your normal twister.

Still, while neither he nor witnesses he spoke with reported seeing an actual funnel touch the ground, he said people did describe watching debris being sucked up in the air, leaving him with only one conclusion.

"I don't know what meteorologists would call it but I wouldn't know how to describe it as anything other than a tornado," Kwarsick said.

South Whidbey Record Editor Jim Larsen contributed to this story.

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