Storm brings floods, downs trees, outages to South Whidbey

Shore Avenue in Useless Bay sits covered in water early Thursday. A spring storm

A spring storm wreaked havoc across the South End on Thursday, toppling trees, cutting power and causing flooding in several communities.

Mike Cotton, deputy chief for South Whidbey Fire/EMS, said the department began receiving calls at about 2 a.m. Thursday right after the wind hit. It kept district first responders busy until daylight and well into Thursday afternoon. Most were the typical “tree-down” calls, such as one in Langley concerning one of the city’s large plum trees, but a few were more serious.

There was at least one 9-1-1 report of a tree that fell on a home. Cotton said it impacted the garage and was hanging over the house. There were no injuries, he said. A car was also damaged by a falling tree in a separate incident, he said. Both occurred in the Freeland area.

The National Weather Service released a high wind warning that said wind gusts could hit 60 mph, but weather stations on South Whidbey all reported top wind speed at just over 30 mph. They’re located away from shorelines, however, so may not have recorded some stronger gusts.

The combination of strong winds, heavy rains and an early morning high tide also resulted in flooding in several areas, such as Shore Avenue in Useless Bay. Paul Tschetter, who owns a home on Useless Bay Road and a small beach cabin to the west of the public access at Double Bluff, said water that covered a large portion of Shore Avenue was up to eight inches deep. It appeared to be saltwater that had washed over bulkheads from the bay, he said. It flooded roads and homes, but also washed massive amounts of driftwood over the one-lane dirt road to his cabin.

“We’ve seen the tide come up to the cabin, but nothing like this,” Tschetter said.

“The perfect storm of the wind and high tide packed a punch.”

He said some of the logs are large enough that heavy machinery may needed to clear the road. Tschetter has lived in the area for several years, and though this storm caused the most damage it’s not his first. Earlier this year county workers had to manage flood waters racing past his home on Double Bluff Road.

“We were on the front page of the newspaper a month ago,” he laughed.

An early report of a dike breach at Deer Lagoon appears to have been inaccurate; a Record reporter walked the structure and saw no visible breach.

Flooding was also bad in Freeland. Water was running over Robinson Road in Mutiny Bay, causing water to build up in neighborhoods near Robinson Beach Park and along Mutiny Bay Road. Water also backed up in Holmes Harbor, particularly in Freeland Park. There was one report of a “floating” portable toilet, though others who spoke to the newspaper said they didn’t personally witness it underway.

“It was blown over, not floating, but definitely in the water,” said Bill Burnside, who’s lived on S. Myrtle Avenue for a dozen years.

Burnside said the standing water was, however, the most he’s seen at the park.

At one point, the storm knocked out power to all of South Whidbey, from Clinton to Greenbank, due to multiple substation outages.

“However, through re-routing, we were able to restore most of them rather quickly,” said Akiko Oda on Friday, a spokeswoman for Puget Sound Energy.

Goss Lake and Brooks Hill were the hardest hit areas on the South End, but island-wide Oak Harbor took the brunt of the storm, she said. As of 12:30 p.m. Friday, only about 50 homes south of Greenbank remained without power. She expected full restoration before the start of the weekend.

“I think we’re looking at later tonight, but check the map,” said Akiko Oda on Friday, a spokeswoman for Puget Sound Energy.

Anyone still without power by Saturday should check Puget Sound Energy’s online outage map, she said. It has the latest up-to-date information and includes estimated restoration times.