"Windstorm zaps power, drops trees all over Whidbey"
June 25, 2008 · Updated 12:48 PM
"Gusts blowing as hard as 70 mph plunged Whidbey Island and much of the North Sound region into darkness Thursday night and Friday morning, returning on Saturday for another, though less fierce, blow that sent even more homes into darkness. The winds on Thursday night, which blew under a clear, moonlit sky, felled hundreds of trees on Whidbey Island and knocked out electrical transmission lines at March Point in Anacortes, putting all of Whidbey Island in a blackout. At the same time, cold temperatures turned some of South Whidbey's roads into skating rinks, causing at least one serious accident during the Friday morning commute.All in all, it was not the best way to start the work day or a school day. Not only did every clock radio on the island fail to wake South Whidbey's work force, but the weather forced Washington State Ferries to call off all its passenger-ferry runs between Clinton and Mukilteo, and convinced South Whidbey schools officials to close every school building in the district. WSF dock supervisor Winnie Yabe said that as of 11 a.m. Friday, ferries personnel were playing it by ear as they considered whether to give the ferry St. Nicholas the green light to Mukilteo. All car ferries were running close to their schedules through the gale. No runs were canceled.One ferry commuter never made it to the lineup for the boats. Clinton's Jennifer Johnston, 27, was driving to catch the 6:30 a.m. ferry when her 1999 Dodge Dakota pickup truck hit an icy spot on Cultus Bay Road.The truck slipped and skidded into a muddy ditch near the road's intersection with French Road, stuck, then tumbled onto its top.Johnston was trapped in her vehicle until Fire Protection District 3 personnel were able to pull her out. Johnston was only shaken in the crash, but was transported to Whidbey General Hospital for observation.On the power front, Puget Sound Energy was forced to bring in extra emergency crews due to the severity of the power outage. PSE spokesman Karl Kirn said falling trees and downed power lines left most of its customers in the North Sound region without power.Companywide, there are hundreds of thousands of people without power, Kirn said at 10 a.m. Friday.Whidbey Island had the worst of it. Fallen trees snapped power lines north of Deception Pass, darkening every single home and business on the island. On South Whidbey, fallen trees also damaged lines on Cultus Bay Road, Sills Road, Honeymoon Bay Road, Saratoga Road and in a number of other locations. Kirn said that while PSE line crews were able to bring power down transmission lines to Freeland by mid-morning, breaks on those smaller lines had to be fixed before South Whidbey could turn its lights back on.We're checking all the lines, he said.Kirn estimated that power would be on by mid-afternoon, but it actually began returning at about 6 p.m. Friday. Some South Whidbey residents were almost trapped into their neighborhoods by debris. A fallen fir tree impeded traffic in and out of the Possession Point and Sandy Hook areas Friday morning, completely blocking the road and snagging a power line. One adventurous, if not foolhardy, driver managed to make it through the blockage by cutting branches off the tree until he could drive his compact truck underneath it.However, most of the tree falls were cleared away by early afternoon. Island County maintenance crews from the Bayview Road Shop were out cutting fallen trees before first light Friday.Power lines and commuters were not the only victims of falling trees. A summer home on Saratoga Road was destroyed when a giant conifer fell on top of it. Don Smith, Chief of Fire Protection District 3, said he responded to the tree fall in case anyone was in the home. No one was. Smith said that was good, because he had never seen such a mess.It's about the biggest tree I've seen on the island, he said.Residents who note continuing blockages due to fallen trees and limbs should call the Bayview Road Shop at 321-5292. PSE's Kirn said no one should attempt to remove trees or limbs tangled in downed power lines. To report downed lines, call PSE at (888) 225-5773. "