"Big winds rock ferries, cut power"
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:19 AM
"Photo: Right on cue, South Whidbey trees started falling over power lines as the winds picked up. This scene is on Saratoga Road. The smoke was caused by a hot line hitting the ground.Jim Larsen/staff photosWhen the boats started rockin, it was obvious winter had finally come a knockin.Blasted by winds peaking as high as 54 m.p.h. Sunday evening, South Whidbey got its first real taste of winter for the first time in the new millennium.And, for the first time in several years, the Clinton-Mukilteo ferries had to beg off of several runs due to high seas.Clinton dock agent Deborah Young said Monday that ferries scheduled to disembark from Clinton at 5:30 p.m., 8:55 p.m., and 9:50 p.m. never pulled away from the dock because their pilots could not make a safe crossing on the high seas. Young, who was working on the Vashon Island ferry dock Sunday, said conditions were about the same all over Puget Sound.We really got hammered, she said.On the afternoon and evening runs the ferries did complete, South Whidbey passengers had to hang on for wild rides. Chairs, backpacks, garbage cans, and anything else that was not nailed down slid around the passenger deck of both ferries as they picked their way back and forth through churning seas.Sitting at the fore end of the Cathlamet during its 3:30 p.m. crossing, Langleys John Jelinek said the dicey ferry ride was actually a fun blast from the past.I havent had a ferry ride like that since I rode the Kulshan, Jelinek said.Despite the ferocity of the winds, the storm claimed no human victims. Fire Protection District 3 responded to 16 calls regarding downed lines and other emergencies, but Captain Mike Cotton said district personnel treated no storm-related injuries.However, the wind did victimize and brutalize the islands electric power lines. The storm winds caught power provider Puget Sound Energy somewhat by surprise.PSE spokesperson Karl Kirn said his company put line repair crews on standby when it learned of the possibility of windy weekend weather. But PSE did not expect the winds to be so intense.All of South Whidbey and the rest of the island went dark around 3 p.m. Sunday when a tree fell across 115 kilovolt transmission lines in the Deception Pass State Park. There were isolated outages even earlier.Although the fix took only a couple of hours, PSE line crews were busy on the Southend for the remainder of the day and night. The winds felled trees by the dozens, knocking out smaller electric lines in neighborhoods and along county roads. At the height of the repair work, six separate truck crews were driving from one sputtering, sparking distribution line to another. Linemen spliced more than a dozen lines back together over a 24-hour period, bringing Southend lights back on in stages.Kirn said Freeland and sections of Clinton were the first to feel the renewed flow of electricity after a PSE line crew repaired the Deception Pass section of the transmission line. Businesses and homes near the high voltage line running along the highway were humming along within four hours. It took an additional two hours to get electricity flowing into sections of Langley.But it took until late Monday afternoon for PSE workers to repair distribution lines to the southernly portions of Clinton and Scatchet Head.We were prepared and had crews standing by, Kirn said.Freelands Norman Walker said the winds and the occasional heavy rains that came with them died back by 3:30 a.m. He monitored the winds with the ananometer he has in his home. Even as he watched the winds in the midst of the storm, his wife, Barbara, watched from the outside. On a business trip in California, Barbara Walker tuned into CNN to discover that her home was being ravaged by high winds. She said she called home regularly to check in, and to give her husband updated football scores -- his television did not work due to the power outage.Puget Sound Energy has not yet totaled the cost of damage to power lines and other infrastructure."