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Gale dims lights all over Whidbey

The windstorm that battered Whidbey Island Friday reached gale-force strength and knocked out power in communities from Clinton to Oak Harbor.

Johnny Burg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, said wind gusts at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station topped out at 48 mph while wind speeds at Smith Island off West Beach reached 54 mph.

Wind speeds between 39 and 54 mph are classified as a gale-force winds, he said. Washington’s western coastline was hit by a windstorm in September, but this was the first of the year for Whidbey Island.

“It was the windiest event so far,” Burg said.

Although some say the storm wasn’t as bad it could have been, it did wreak havoc on power lines across the island. According to Allison Stanford, a spokeswoman with Puget Sound Energy, broken tree limbs were responsible for scattered outages in Clinton, Langley, Freeland, Greenbank and Oak Harbor, along with small pockets of rural Island County.

The most significant outage occurred in Langley just before 5 p.m., said Stanford, in an email to the Whidbey New-Times. About 400 customers near Highway 525 were without power until early Saturday morning. Again, the culprit was a broken tree branch that knocked down a wire.

“It is not unusual this time of year when it becomes windier and the trees are still full and weighted down by leaves and foliage to experience scattered power outages,” Stanford wrote.

As winds persisted into Saturday and Sunday, crews worked to restore small, scattered outages across Whidbey Island, she said.

Washington State Ferries rode out the storm well, seeing only one round-trip cancellation on the Coupeville to Port Townsend ferry route. Laura Johnson, a spokeswoman with the state agency, said the 3:45 p.m. sailing from Port Townsend and the 4:30 p.m. sailing from Coupeville were scrubbed both for weather and a search and rescue operation.

According to Johnson, the crew of the Salish launched a rescue boat to assist a small craft in distress. The individual on board was taken ashore in Port Townsend and handed over to Jefferson County emergency services.

Finally, areas along West Beach Road that get pummeled with large waves every year got by with little or no problem, said Bill Oakes, director of Island County Public Works. Wind waves were large enough to raise concern, but didn’t build until after the high tide at about 3 p.m.

“I think we were lucky in that the timing didn’t line up,” Oakes said.

However, the waves were something of a spectacle and attracted a host of spectators. While most were satisfied to take pictures from the safety of nearby lookouts, braver souls parked their cars right behind breakwaters for what was undoubtedly the most exciting car wash around.

 

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