Storm slams West Beach Road
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
December 18, 2012 · 2:42 PM
The high tides and severe winds that battered Whidbey Island Monday cost an Oak Harbor man his home.
Alex Thierry, who moved to Whidbey Island in August to take a position as a pottery teacher and swim coach at Oak Harbor High School, was renting a home on West Beach Road when the severe storm Monday caused the bulkhead behind the house to fail.
“I only have what I took to work,” Thierry said.
He said the bulkhead was fine when he left for work at 6:30 a.m. He noted that waves were crashing over the wall and water was standing in the backyard. Thierry, who is from St. Louis, said someone told him the bulkhead failed a couple of hours later. His landlord called him around 10 a.m. telling him the structure had been damaged. It wasn’t until classes were finished that he was able to see the damage.
By Monday afternoon, the seaside wall had washed away and the house was leaning toward the water.
Eric Brooks, deputy director for the Island County Department of Emergency Management, said he red tagged the house Monday morning, meaning that the house is unsafe to enter. Brooks said neither of the neighboring structures are in danger and he is monitoring the situation along with county building officials.
A neighboring house and a garage bookending the damaged home was yellow tagged as a precautionary measure. That allows residents to enter and remove belongings, but recommends they shouldn’t stay in the house.
The low-lying area of West Beach Road that is wedged between the shoreline and Swan Lake was covered with driftwood and other debris. County officials closed the road early Monday morning and road crews were busy filling dump trucks to clear the road.
“A lot of the houses sustained some kind of damage,” Brooks said of the homes on West Beach Road. He added the high winds and high tide, which peaked at 14 feet, 5 inches for Seattle and 11 feet, 3 inches for Port Townsend, contributed to the damage.
Wind gusts reaching 56 miles per hour and sustained winds of 45 miles per hour were recorded at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, according to information provided by base spokesman Tony Popp.
Dick Eigenraam, who lives off Swantown overlooking West Beach Road, said the waves Monday morning were higher than the two-story homes.
“It was as high as the telephone poles,” Eigenraam said. His home escaped any damage. The severe weather did spook his dog, Rex, who broke free from his kennel. A good Samaritan found his dog near Walmart in Oak Harbor and called the number on the dog’s collar.
While workers were clearing the road, curious onlookers stopped by to witness the swells and waves hitting the shoreline. Some people would park up the hill and then walk down to the overlook.
Other areas on Whidbey and Camano islands sustained damage as the result of the storm. Most of the areas affected by the storm were also in low-lying areas.
Brooks noted flooding took place on Shore Drive on Camano Island, Woodard Road near Freeland, Utsalady Drive and Maple Grove.
In Coupeville, one business owner felt the winds and the waves hit his building.
“We took some real heavy wave hits this morning. It felt like an earthquake every 30 seconds,” said William Bell, owner of Local Grown that operates in the building at the end of the Coupeville Wharf.
He said the water flowed underneath his truck while it was parked on the pier and the waves would spray over the walkway.
Despite the high winds, emergency services appeared to have a quiet day Monday.
North Whidbey firefighters responded to a tree that fell on top of a car and Central Whidbey firefighters responded to a couple of trees that fell over the road and a chimney fire.
County officials closed several roads Monday because of flooding. Those roads include West Beach Road between Even Down Way and Swantown Road, part of Hill Road at Ebey’s Landing and several roads on the south end of the island.
The weather prompted ferry officials to cancel several sailings on the Port Townsend-to-Coupeville route. Even after returning to service, departures were delayed due to inclement weather.
Several Whidbey residents also lost power Monday. Roger Thompson, spokesman for Puget Sound Energy, said at the highest, 265 power customers lost power and most of those were in the Greenbank area. He said damage was repaired later that day.
While roads were cleared and power was restored, Thierry will continue his job while he looks for a new place to live. He is staying with a co-worker and he took Tuesday off to buy new clothes. He intends to resume his work Wednesday teaching at the high school and coaching the swim team.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.