Storm doesn’t live up to forecast, South Whidbey ‘lucky’

A car crashed into a fallen tree that blocked both lanes of Woodard Avenue in Freeland on Friday evening. Nobody was injured.

It was the storm that never was.

The past weekend’s storms saw high winds and a large amount of rainfall, but it’s fair to say it wasn’t as big as many of the area’s TV stations anticipated. The storm, which was made from the remnants of Typhoon Songda, had all the makings for a potentially “historic event” and had South Enders scrambling to gather their survival necessities. Some hardware stores ran low or ran out of generators, lanterns and D batteries.

South Whidbey was ready.

“This was not a failure so much of the models, but of communication of uncertainty,” meteorologist Cliff Mass said in his weather blog. “My profession has to stop providing the worst case or most probable weather evolution, but provide society with full probabilistic guidance.”

That isn’t to say the storm completely missed our neck of the woods. Winds on South Whidbey reached the upper 30s on Saturday, with a 38.7 mph wind gust reading from the wind gauge at Campbells Glen in Clinton, and up to the 50s in the Coupeville area. A few power lines fell Friday and over the weekend. Trees blocked a few roads such as Woodard Avenue and Mutiny Bay Road in Freeland, according to South Whidbey Fire/EMS Chief Rusty Palmer. Mass noted an “intense line of thunderstorms and convection moved through around 6:30 p.m.” Saturday.

So who was impacted? Who was left powerless for a period of time?

“South Whidbey was hit by the Friday storm; there were no widespread outages but there were several pockets of smaller outages due to laterals that serve five to 75 people that were impacted by branches or trees coming into the lines,” Puget Sound Energy spokesman Ray Lane said.

Freeland resident Robin Flem said he lost power for about 8 hours on Friday when a tree fell, along with the surrounding power lines, and blocked Woodard Avenue. The fallen tree caused a car to crash into it about 15 minutes after it fell, Flem said. Nobody was hurt. He said only he and a neighbor lost power from the incident.

“The tree completely blocked our property,” Flem said. “We weren’t going anywhere, so we just sat back and watched it. I took pictures of the crash, and the fact they made it to the TV news cycle just shows how small of a storm it was.”

It is unclear exactly how many people lost power. Terri-Ann Betancourt, a spokesperson for the energy company, said Puget Sound Energy would need days to compute how many customers were left without power specifically on South Whidbey.

Palmer said South Whidbey Fire/EMS received about 25 calls during Friday’s wind event, 18 which were storm related. Most of the calls reported downed trees, and about “three or four” reported downed power lines, he said. There was only one storm related call on Saturday, and Palmer said the only flooding event Fire/EMS was aware of was on Friday in a creek on Glendale Road in Clinton.

Nobody got hurt over the weekend.

“We established our emergency center here at station 31 (Cameron Road),” Palmer said. “We created two divisions to respond, one on the north end of our response area and one on the South End. We got lucky.”