High winds blast South Whidbey for second time in four days, causing outages, damaged homes

Two South Whidbey Fire/EMS firefighters prepare to enter a burning home on Langley Road on Monday following a storm. The fire started when the power came back on

On the tails of Thursday’s spring storm, a second and more powerful system blew through South Whidbey late this weekend, severely damaging at least three homes and leaving people throughout the area in the dark.

The storm, which knocked out power to more than 176,000 homes across the region and killed a Seattle man, began Sunday afternoon and continued on late into the evening. Wind gust speeds were recorded at 40 mph in Clinton, 46 mph in Coupeville and 59 in Oak Harbor. Regionally, the National Weather Service reported wind gusts of up to 76 mph in Grays Harbor County.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS Chief Rusty Palmer said the wind resulted in at least two homes on the South End being crushed by falling trees. Attempts to reach the owners of one of the homes on Cultus Bay Road in Clinton were not successful for this story, but a photo online revealed extensive damage.

Palmer said two cars were also heavily damaged by falling trees.

In one case, however, it wasn’t falling trees that spelled trouble but the power coming back on. A two-bedroom home on Langley Road caught fire Monday morning from a heat lamp. It was near a bed when the electricity to the house was restored.

Neither of the occupants, Ethan Berkley, 24, and Cait Williams, 18, were injured in the incident.

“They did the right thing, called 9-1-1 and got out safely,”  Palmer said.


Though the fire was largely contained to the bedroom, the home sustained heavy smoke damage. Berkley, who was standing barefoot in the front yard with Williams as firefighters worked to put out the fire, said he didn’t know how much of their belongings might be salvaged. Yet, they appeared in good spirits and were grateful they and their pet monitor lizard Jareth (named after the goblin king in the fantasy film Labyrinth), escaped safely.

And though they didn’t know where they would be sleeping that night, they were optimistic they would find shelter.

“We’ll figure something out,” Berkley said. “We have a lot of friends on Whidbey.”

Home owner Rob Meinhold, who lives in another house on the same property, was also present. He said the reality of the fire was still sinking in.

“It’s kind of a shock,” he said. “I’ve never had a fire before.”

Meinhold confirmed he does have homeowners insurance, and was hopeful his policy would pay for the damages. Palmer said he believes the home, though heavily damaged, could be salvaged.

Overall, the district responded to 27 calls. Most were for fallen trees, said the chief, many of which hit power lines. It’s unclear just how many people on South Whidbey had sustained power outages, but a Puget Sound Energy official said everyone was in the dark at one point.

“For a brief period of time, all of South Whidbey was without power on Sunday,” said Akiko Oda, a utility spokeswoman.

As of Tuesday morning, the company’s online outage map indicated that all but two customers had electricity restored.