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High winds rip through area

Early warnings help residents prepare

A tree fell diagonally across the intersection of 164th Avenue NE and 172nd Place NE, forcing the closure of the roads.
Photo by Jeff Switzer/Woodinville Weekly

wind storm by Jeff Switzer
As endearing as the woodland character is to the residents of the Northshore area, when the winter storms hit, the trees can be less of a blessing and more of a burden.
   Last Tuesday's heavy winds, with gusts of 75-80 mph, toppled trees and downed limbs, taking power lines with them and leaving 65,000 in North King County without power at the height of the storm.
   But early warnings had their effect: Residents were inundated with messages from TV and radio news crews tracking the storm's progress as it marched north from California.
   When experts predicted the storm would hit at 4 p.m. and peak between 6 and 9 p.m., many employers sent workers home early. Area schools had decided earlier to let students out before the storm hit, with Northshore closing two hours early and canceling after school sports.
   Residents stocked up on water and matches and stayed off the roads.
   "The early warning worked extremely well," said Woodinville City Manager Joe Meneghini. "The school district, the businesses and the residents get two thumbs up. [Northshore's] early release worked well and made a big difference in handling the problems of the storm."
   Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District worked closely with city officials and King County Police, setting up an Emergency Operations Center at the Fire Department's headquarters. City employees and police used fire district radios to coordinate efforts during the storm.
   As power went out, city staff and police placed temporary stop signs at affected intersections. Eight extra police cruisers were also in the area.
   Also, in anticipation of the storm, King County Roads division put 200 maintenance workers on 24-hour notice to ensure that roads were kept clear.
   King County Police Sgt. Rich Krogh said there weren't any accidents during the storm, though police responded to many alarms that went off during the power surges.

Power outages, road closures
   Puget Power worked through the night to restore power to 300,000 residents, 65,000 of them in North King County, and by Wednesday afternoon all but 25,000 customers had electricity. Less than 4,000 remained without power on Thursday, and electricity was returned to the last of the Puget Power customers by noon on Friday.
   A spokesperson for Puget Power said that in comparison, the Inaugural Day Storm of January 1993 was a four-hour storm that left 500,000 without power and took five days to fix.
   Puget Power was able to call in 150 extra work crews from Oregon, California, Idaho, Eastern Washington, and Canada to help with the repairs. However, this year, Oregon and California had their hands full, and the nine counties that Puget Power serves could only pull in extra work crews from British Columbia.
   "The winds weren't as heavy as the Inaugural Day Storm," said Woodinville Fire Chief Jim Davis. "We estimated gusts from 75 to 80 mph, and everything began calming down about midnight, with winds around 50 mph."
   South Snohomish County, in the Bothell and Turner's Corner areas, lost power for anywhere from five minutes to 14 hours.
   Downed trees also forced road closures in many areas.
   Within the city limits of Woodinville, the traditional closure of NE 172nd place/164th Avenue NE occurred as a tree fell diagonally through the intersection, taking four sets of power lines with it. Crews had the intersection opened again by Wednesday afternoon.
   The Lake Leota area was particularly hard hit as four downed trees pinned power lines close to the road, making it necessary to close the loop around the lake.
   As a result of the heavy rains, NE 165th Street just east of Avondale was closed because of water over the roadway.
   Also suffering damage was the White Oaks neighborhood, to the north of Woodinville-Duvall Road, where trees came crashing down onto houses and across streets and driveways. While the fire department responded to two calls from that area, there were no injuries.
   Investigators were assessing property damages in the area on Thursday and Friday and expect to have numbers available on Dec. 18.
   King County plans to expedite storm related repair permits and damage assessment evaluations, both free of charge.
   In an effort to assist the King County Office of Emergency Management, Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District is attempting to gather windstorm damage estimates.
   If your home, property, or business was damaged as a result of the Dec. 12 windstorm, the fire department would like that information. Contact the district at 483-2131.
   The information is vital to the overall county assessment of the storm impact, officials said. If a federal disaster is declared and reimbursements are available, all claims must still be reported to private insurance carriers.

storm damage

Click here for storm damage photos.