Unusual windstorm creates chaos across Snohomish County

EVERETT — Strong winds Saturday toppled trees, knocked down power lines and stretched emergency responders and repair crews thin across the county.

Snohomish County PUD reported more than 175,000 people without power by 4 p.m. Officials urged patience and warned people to expect long outages as crews worked to clear fallen debris and restore power.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning. Sustained winds of 44 mph were recorded at Paine Field along with gusts of 61 mph.

“This is a storm that is unusual this time of year,” meteorologist Johnny Burg said. “With trees still in leaves that can catch the wind and possibly in a weakened state due to the drought, the winds can be a little more damaging.”

The storm’s effects could be seen on major highways and in rural neighborhoods. Calls came in from around the county as fire, police and public works crews prioritized, focusing first on areas where fallen trees and live power lines were an immediate hazard.

A steady stream of calls about power lines down and trees into buildings came in for firefighters in south Snohomish County, said Greg Westerman, a battalion chief with Snohomish County Fire District 1. It was more than crews could handle at once and they had a backlog by late afternoon. Firefighters put barricades in front of live wires and cleared hazardous debris as soon as possible.

“It’s pretty standard for a big wind event,” Westerman said. “Just a lot of trees and power lines down, a lot of people without power. Same as is happening in the whole area.”

Crews removed a large tree that blocked I-5 North in Lynnwood and backed up traffic for miles. No one was injured when the tree fell, Washington State Trooper Mark Francis said, but one car was damaged. Stormy weather and debris on roads ups the risk of collisions. By 3:30 p.m., troopers had responded to a dozen crashes in Snohomish County, Francis said.

The Everett Fire Department called in some extra crews to keep up with the volume of wind-related calls, Fire Marshal Rick Robinson said. They received numerous reports of downed power lines and one call for a boater caught in the storm.

“The entire city has been impacted by the high velocity winds,” Robinson said. “We’ve had trees and power lines down all over.”

Some people couldn’t drive in and out of their neighborhoods. Trees blocked off streets after crashing through power lines and leaving a dangerous mix of wires, trunk and branches strewn across the road.

A tree came down half a block from Eric Berglund’s home on Sunnyside Boulevard in Marysville. A police officer blocked off the road while neighbors waited for crews to clear the mess.

“It looks like a 100-foot tree and right in the middle of it, at about the 50-foot mark, it bent the power lines all the way down to the ground,” Berglund said.

The wind also knocked down part of his fence and scattered about a dozen shingles from his neighbor’s roof across his yard. With the power out and the wind still blowing, he decided to spend Saturday afternoon indoors and wait for a safer time to fix the fence.

Near Mariner High School in Everett, Eugene Shaverda’s neighbors kept stopping by to look at a tree that came down near his house.

“We had two cars parked by the garage and if it fell a little more to the right it would have hit them,” he said. “Everyone has been stopping by to look at it. It’s quite a sight.”

Breezy weather and rain showers are expected Sunday and heading into the work week. No more wind storms are forecast in the near future, said Burg, with the National Weather Service. Storms are more common later in the year.

“This is a good example of what to prepare for this fall and winter,” he said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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