The Edwards Agency

Local News

Snows hit before traditional windstorm

snowstorm by Jeff Switzer
Bucking tradition, the Northshore area skipped its traditional pre-Thanksgiving windstorm and opted for freezing temperatures and as much as nine inches of wet snow last Tuesday, snapping tree branches, causing more than 10,000 to lose power and sending local emergency crews into action.
   This time last year, 65,000 in north King County were without power after a fierce windstorm.
   "It hit us extremely hard," said Allen Mikita, business manager for Puget Power's North King County division, whose 15-year-old apple tree at his home in Bellevue snapped under the weight of wet snow, much to his surprise and dismay. "King County was hit especially hard in the rural areas, with pockets of people (without power) for a number of reasons," he added. Puget Power has 120,000 customers in north King County.
   When a storm hits, Puget Power sends out service patrols and damage assessment teams as "eyes in the field," including people trained to drive around a specific area and report back on what damage they find. As the outages continue, repair crews mobilize, and the company borrows crews from less severely hit areas. Depending on the damage, contract crews, such as City Light or Canadian crews, are brought in.
   By last Thursday, there were only 2,100 north county residents without power, with problems ranging from a blown-out fuse to a downed line or pole. Mikita says the crews felt pretty proud about that. "Getting most people back on in three four days is pretty amazing, given the heavy wet snow. All storms are different; this one certainly was."

Bothell's still there
   While commutes were treacherous, aid crews saw very little in the way of serious emergencies.
   Bothell Fire Department responded to a number of automatic fire alarms on Tuesday as the power fluctuated. They also helped extricate a woman trapped in an elevator at the King County's Housing Authority-owned Northlake House, using a bent wire to trip the door, as they couldn't find the key.
   Downed trees and arcing power lines also brought fire crews out, though no injuries were reported.
   "We kind of gear up expecting the worst, and it's usually pretty minimal, though you're busy nonstop," said Cathleen Wiggins, fire educator for the Bothell Fire department.
   Bothell Police reported the area came through the storm "pretty well unscathed," and "amazingly quiet," with one motor vehicle accident attributed to the icy conditions.

One man, one mission: Cliff plows them all
   "We've had more people compliment us," said Woodinville City Manager Joe Meneghini. He noted the "thumbs-up" response for Cliff Williams, who started plowing and sanding the city by 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.
   King County started with Woodinville-Duvall Road, the north and south bypasses, and 124th Avenue NE, working countywide with 50 snow removal vehicles, including sanding trucks and snowplows (plus 12,000 cubic yards of sand and 210 tons of salt).
   Williams took up plowing and sanding the collectors and neighborhoods, working 13 hours on Tuesday and starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
   "When you go through these residential areas, the adults are giving you thumbs up, but then you go around a corner and the kids pelt you with snowballs! It's kind of a no-win situation," said Williams, who recommended parents keep kids from sledding on public roads because of traffic.
   But don't worry about a bleary-eyed snowplow driver. Cliff was treated to free coffee at the Texaco station for his work and took breaks so he didn't join other cars in the ditches.
   "We inspected the streets Thursday and they were all clear and okay. We sent Cliff home to go to bed," said Roy Peterson, Woodinville's Public Services administrator.
   The city has one plow and uses just enough sand to do the job "so we don't have to clean out the catch basins in the spring when the rain comes," Peterson said. The city does not salt the roads.
   "We have other backups, but prefer to have one person doing it because there is a certain skill involved, with no damage to the road surface, the shoulder, or getting the vehicle stuck," Peterson added.

Open those flues!
   Woodinville fire crews responded to two fires, one of which started when a "thistle rug" hanging above a woodburning stove fell while family members were outside playing and shoveling snow.
   Tuesday morning, crews responded to an incident in which a tree fell into a house and one which took out power lines in the 15600 block of NE 191st.
   It took crews six minutes in the snow to respond to a call at 1:30 p.m. from a house which had a fire in the fireplace but whose residents forgot to open the flue. The homeowner heard the smoke detector from outdoors and called 911 after going in and seeing the fire. The house was evacuated and crews removed smoldering materials from the indoors and provided fans for ventilation.
   Dave Leggett, public fire educator for Woodinville Fire District, was informed by a neighbor that this resident faithfully checks and changes her smoke detectors.
   A similar call of an apartment fireplace with a closed flue brought crews to the 18100 block of 142 Avenue NE around 8:40 p.m.
   Most calls were for home security systems and automatic alarms re-energizing when the power surged. Because of alternative sources of heat and light, several carbon monoxide detectors were also activated.