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Storm-related accidents claim two lives
The first major wind and rainstorm of the season struck the
Snoqualmie Valley with deadly force last Wednesday morning.
The day started with a brief period of clear skies and light winds,
but quickly took a tragic _ and fatal _ turn. At about 9:30 a.m. Marian G.
Vincent, from Silver Spring, Md., was killed by a falling tree on the Rattlesnake
Ledge Trail. Vincent, 62, was hiking with sister Carol Nelson of North Bend
when the tree came down, apparently killing her instantly.
"When the conditions got too windy they decided they should
turn around and go back," reported Josie Williams of Eastside Fire and
Rescue (EF&R). "The younger sister saw
the tree but the older sister didn't."
According to King County Sheriff's Deputy Ron Ryals, after
the incident Nelson, 60, ran back down the trail about 150 yards and flagged
down Snoqualmie resident David Mosher, who placed the 911 call on his
"I was parked on the side of the road, and she went by me flashing
her lights and honking her horn," Mosher commented afterwards. "She
stopped, put it in reverse and came back to me, yelling, `Do you have a cell
phone? My sister was hit by a tree.'
"I stayed up there until the emergency people arrived. What got
me was how many ambulances showed up."
Williams stated EF&R received the call at 9:35 a.m. and had its
first units on the scene by 9:46. Due to the conditions, they were unable to
do much more than care for Nelson and await the arrival of the King
County Medical Examiner.
"Several trees were coming down around the firefighters, so the
conditions were quite dangerous for everyone," she added.
"At 0935 we were dispatched to a report of a hiker struck by a tree,"
said EF&R-North Bend Capt. Mark Ashburn, one of the
respondents. "About 10 minutes later a
medical crew went up the trail and found the hiker. They were unable to start
resuscitation efforts as the hiker had already died."
Ashburn described the tree as "large _ about 50- to 60-feet tall"
and said it struck Vincent on the head and upper body. He said that after
calling for help, Nelson returned to her sister and was attempting to render aid
when the emergency personnel arrived.
"We literally had trees falling around us and feared for our
own safety. As soon as we determined we were unable to help, we pulled all
of the rescue people out to a safe area.
"It was an extremely unfortunate incident," Ashburn added
somberly. "Our hearts go out to her family."
"It was really dangerous up there," Ryals said later. "We went up the
trail hiding behind trees. You could hear them cracking and popping up there.
"The problem now is, this is the first windstorm we've had and a lot
of these trees are unsafe. I recommend everyone stay out of the woods,
because you don't know what's going to happen."
Elsewhere in the region, power was knocked out to more than
50,000 homes, while the Cascade passes saw their first snow of the season. The
arrival of the white stuff was a big surprise to many, with the few
businesses at locations such as Snoqualmie Pass quickly running out of tire chains
and other essentials.
Snow and sleet continued to fall through the weekend,
undoubtedly contributing to a fatal accident on westbound I-90 last Sunday
morning. Toshihiro Suzuki, a 49-year-old pilot for Japan Airlines, died in a
single-car accident that occurred at approximately 6:05 a.m. at Milepost 53,
close by the summit.
Suzuki was a passenger in a 1996 Ford Club Van which drifted off
the road to the right and rolled before coming to rest on its wheels. Suzuki
_ who was not wearing a seatbelt _ was ejected and died at the scene.
Another unbelted passenger, 47-year-old Hisato Fakabe, suffered a
fractured clavicle and abrasions. Fakabe, driver Faye Flagg of Moses Lake, and
passengers Ray Flagg and Harumi Kobiyashi were later transported
to Overlake Hospital for treatment.
In the Valley proper, the wind and rain took a toll in utilities and
vehicles. At about 7:54 a.m., State Trooper Traci A. Foster was slightly injured when
a tree came down on her patrol vehicle on North Bend Way west of
Sydney Avenue. One limb of the tree crashed through the windshield and
literally landed in her lap, but she was able to safely stop her truck. Foster was
later treated for a sore back and scratches to her forearm.
Several roads were closed for varying periods due to falling trees,
including Tiger Summit on State Route 18 and a few lanes of Interstate 90
near Preston. A section of Mount Si Road near 439th Place Southeast was
shut down for an extended period after large trees fell across the
roadway, bringing down several utility lines. Repair crews restored access to
the upper reaches of the road by late that Wednesday afternoon.
The Snoqualmie Public Safety building suffered minor
structural damage when high winds took off about 10 feet of roofing at the
northwest corner. The old Tollgate barn immediately northwest of North
Bend also took a major hit from the storm and is now effectively in a state of
slow motion collapse. Eastside Fire & Rescue personnel roped off the
building last Friday following a request from the city's Building Department.
Reportedly the property owner is considering demolition, although
another windstorm will probably finish off the landmark structure.
According to National Weather Service meteorologist Maria
Lewis, the storm was the annual harbinger of things to come.
"It wasn't an unusual storm for this time of year," she commented this
past Monday. "We were getting some reports during the morning from
the North Bend area south through Enumclaw of gusts in the
50-mph range. The average wind speed was about 40 mph.
"Typically, we'll se these kinds of storms through March," she
added. "They usually taper off in March, but we've had occasions where they
continued into April."