Northwest NEWS

March 8, 1999

Front Page

A week of wild weather hits Snoqualmie Valley

Novelty Hill Bridge

The guard rail on the Novelty Hill Bridge was damaged during the storm.
Staff photo by Andrew Walgamott.

downed lines

Trees fell across power lines throughout the area.

   Sun, dark glasses, smiles, the first smell of freshly cut grass, and the sense that spring may indeed be on the way finally arrived for soggy Northshore residents last weekend.

   Convertibles with their tops down and people in shorts out walking and riding their bikes, in spite of chilly temperatures, were good indications of how welcome a sunny day could be.

   The weekend was the first time in more than three months that it didn't rain. And the sun was certainly a big change from the high winds, dark clouds, heavy rain, hail storms, and wet snow that pummeled the area on March 3.

   "If you didn't like the weather last Wednesday, all you had to do was wait a minute and it would change," said Walt Hopp, Woodinville High School graphic arts instructor. He had the day off when the weather caused the Riverview, Northshore, and Lake Washington school districts to close.

   The wild weather which began late last Tuesday night was caused by warm air from the south colliding with cold air coming down from the north. Howling winds up to 68 miles per hour, transformers blowing up, and trees and falling limbs kept many people awake throughout the early morning hours and left damage that will take some time to fix.

   The power went off in many homes and businesses, and stayed off in some areas for several hours. Many roadways were closed, with trees and downed power lines across streets, until crews had a chance to remove the debris. A cottonwood tree fell onto the guard rail on the Novelty Hill bridge approach and damaged the road and rail. The bridge was closed and repairs were made. The bridge reopened on Sunday.

   The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge closed at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and remained closed until needed repairs were completed Friday morning. Traffic signals went out and commuters struggled to find a way to work.

   "The wind was so strong when I was driving that one gust moved my truck almost into the guard rail," said Earl Mewtharter of Snohomish. "It took me a few seconds to realize it was the force of the wind. I have never had the wind hit my truck that hard."

   Several homes were damaged by falling trees. It was reported that one house was split in half, and many more lost decks or garages.

   Ange Stephens and her family are still shaken by their experience as they wait for the insurance company to show up so that they can start rebuilding their Woodinville home.

   "My son, Gabriel, 4-1/2 years old, became frightened by the wind Tuesday night and climbed into bed with my husband, Larry Sieger, and me. Around 4 a.m., we were awakened by a big crash. Drywall, wood, lumber, and cedar shakes started falling in on us. We knew it was a tree on the house, and that the roof was caving in. We thought we would die, but were able to jump out of bed and get out of the room. We then heard the roof breaking apart. The tree had knocked off the chimney and lodged against the top of the windows.

   "The power was out and we used flashlights to see what had happened. There were piles of rubble in the bedroom. We searched for our dog, but couldn't find him.

   "We called 911 and the fire department came out and said it was all right to be downstairs, but not upstairs. By that time, it was daylight, and we were able to notice how close the tree was to our bed. We gave deep thanks for our lives," said Stephens.

   The family got a call around 6 a.m. from someone who had found their dog. "He must have gone through the cat door in his panic," said Stephens. "The house is a mess and every room is structurely damaged, but it will be fixed. The most important thing is that we are safe. We feel so fortunate to have our lives and each other."

   As the power started going out throughout the area, numerous alarms went off. Fire districts responded to many calls to reset and verify residential and business alarm systems.

   Roads that were closed because of blocking trees, downed lines, or damaged gas lines included Northeast 124th St. between 132nd Place NE and Willows Road; NE 124th St. (Novelty Bridge) between West Snoqualmie Valley Road and SR-203; Bear Creek Road NE between NE 133rd St. and Mink Rd. NE; East Lake Joy Dr. NE at West Lake Joy Dr. NE (the loop); 182nd Ave. NE and NE 186th St.; NE Juanita Drive between NE 112th St. and NE 128th St.; 232nd Ave. NE at the Old Woodinville-Duvall Rd.; NE Woodinville-Duvall Rd. between 222nd Way; NE and 232nd Ave. NE; Paradise Lake Rd. and NE 190th Place; Odell Road NE at #12912 and NE 175th St. and 164th Ave. SE.

   King County warns motorists to take extreme caution when around downed wires. They are to be avoided as they are extremely dangerous and carry high voltage.

   When there is a problem on any King County maintained road, report it by calling (206) 296-8100 or 1-800-KC ROADS.

Click here for additional storm photos.