Storm-related accidents claim two lives

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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

cell phone.

"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."

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