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Surprise storm slaps Valey

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A surprisingly strong early season wind storm swept through

the Snoqualmie Valley and other portions of Western Washington and

coastal British Columbia Friday night, causing power outages and moderate

damage.

The first clue of the incoming weather was the sudden appearance

of rain and wind during Friday evening's football games. By early

Saturday morning, lines were down and utility and emergency crews were

scrambling to clean up and restore power.

Reportedly, I-90 west of Preston was temporarily blocked early

Saturday morning by fallen limbs. Otherwise, the primary problem caused

by the storm was a wide-ranging loss of power, with some sporadic

disruptions in telephone and cable TV service.

Some areas were harder hit than others; portions of North Bend,

Duvall and Carnation only saw a brief interruption in service during the

night, while in other locations - such as a large portion of Snoqualmie -

power wasn't fully restored until early Sunday.

According to Dustin Guy of the National Weather Service, the

high winds were the result of a collapse of a high pressure system that had

recently rewarded the region with pleasant weather.

"The jet stream is strong across the Pacific right now," he commented

last Monday. "When the ridge of high pressure broke down, the storm

system came through pretty quickly. It kind of just zipped on through.

"The wind speed varied widely," Guy continued. "We saw gusts

from 35 mph to a little over 40 mph, with sustained winds in some places

from 25 to 35 mph and gusts to 45. The wind direction was out of the

south-southeast, so the terrain helped determine the impact. If you were in an

area that was sheltered by terrain, you probably didn't feel as much."

Some residents only had to deal with yards full of leaves, but

others were less fortunate. A tree collapse on Southeast Tanner Road brought

down several power lines and dislodged two power poles, while flattening

one resident's pickup truck. The downed lines kept Truck Town and

several other Upper Valley neighborhoods without power for an extended

period, as Puget Sound Energy and several contractors made repairs.

"At the peak, we had well over 30,000 customers without

power," said PSE's Dorothy Bracken.

"That represents about three percent throughout our total service area.

The area that suffered the greatest number of outages was Skagit County,

followed by Whatcom and Island Counties.

"We also had problems in East King County and parts of South

King County. The areas around Carnation, Duvall and Fall City were the

most heavily affected by power outages. We had some particular damage on

Tolt Hill Road at 285th Avenue Northeast."

Bracken added that most of the power losses were termed "small

and scattered," in that there wasn't a large number of customers affected in

any one particular area.

"We were able to get the vast majority back into service by the end

of the day Saturday," she noted, "but as of Sunday morning, we still had

about 800 without power. About 600 were in Skagit County and the rest were

in East and South King County. Those were the areas that were harder to

get to, with clusters of customers numbering 10 or 20.

"Saturday kept us pretty busy, but all power was restored Sunday."

The events made for a long night in several areas. In Snoqualmie,

police officers erected stop signs at several affected intersections and

otherwise kept an eye out for downed lines and obstructions.

"I was contacted at 1 a.m.," said Mayor R. "Fuzzy" Fletcher

Saturday afternoon. "Snoqualmie now has some power, because we have two

different grids coming into the city.

"Part of the problem - from what I've heard - is that a tree came

down last night near a substation on city property. Our crews couldn't move

it without the blessing of PSE, and they were swamped."

According to Bracken, PSE did, in fact, "call out the reserves,"

authorizing contract crews from companies such as Asplundh and Wilson

Construction Company to pitch in with the repair and stabilization effort. Most

of the crewmen remarked the arrival of the storm was rather unusual for

September.

"This kind of thing happens a couple of times each year," said

one PSE employee from Kirkland during a much needed coffee break, "but

this is the earliest I can remember. I got called out at 1 a.m., and it's been

pretty widespread, with pockets here and there."

"I didn't get called out until 4 a.m., so I guess I got to sleep in,"

responded a co-worker. "I normally work out

the Redmond area; Redmond had outages, as did Kirkland, Fall City.

"There's a lot of growth still on these trees. They have heavy

limbs with lots of leaves, and it doesn't take much to bring them down. Usually,

we don't get the wind until all the leaves are off."

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