Storm wreaks havoc on Whidbey

A severe windstorm wreaked havoc in Island County over the weekend.

Homes lost power, waterfront communities were damaged, residents missed the Super Bowl, but nobody was severely injured during a storm that hit the region early Saturday morning.

South Whidbey Island and Camano Island appear to have sustained the most damage from the weekend storm.

Waterfront communities experienced flooding and damage to bulkheads from 12-foot tides. The high-speed winds, which included sustained winds of 61 mph and gusts of 78-mph, knocked down trees that damaged homes throughout Whidbey Island.

“We heard a loud noise and I’m pretty sure this is what it was,” said Mary Lisenbery, recalling a sound she heard at about 4 a.m. Saturday. It turned out a tree fell and damaged a neighbor’s workshop. She was keeping an eye on the neighbor’s property while they are in California for the winter.

As for her property located north of Oak Harbor, several of her trees were knocked down. Her home wasn’t damaged.

Many roads on North Whidbey Island were littered with branches and pine needles Monday morning. Work crews were still busy clearing fallen branches from the roads.

Bob Burchard spent the morning removing branches from his property. He said a tree fell and landed on a power line, but it could have been much worse.

“If it fell the other way it would have been a different story,” he said as he removed branches near the roadway.

The Houck family south of Oak Harbor lost a Christmas present. They had tied down their brand-new trampoline before the storm. That strategy didn’t work.

“It scooted across the yard 50-feet and flew up on the roof,” said Laura Houck. She also lost a 100-year-old apple tree that toppled during the storm.

The downed trees caused numerous power outages throughout Whidbey Island.

Approximately 13,200 Whidbey Island customers lost power over the weekend, said Lynn Carlson, spokesperson with Puget Sound Energy. Power wasn’t restored to all areas until early Monday morning. Many islanders left home Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning to make sure they could watch the Seahawks play in the Super Bowl.

In all, 140,000 customers in the Puget Sound region lost power over the weekend. Work crews from as far away as California drove up to assist in the repair work, Carlson said.

Emergency services dealt with a flood of calls for help.

“We were in a state of triage all day long,” said Jan Smith with the Island County Sheriff’s Office, describing hundreds of calls the office received Saturday. She said the calls largely stemmed from downed trees and the power outages throughout the county. Homes from North Whidbey to Clinton lost power.

Smith said traffic was unusually heavy Saturday because many people either wanted to get away from the power outages or they wanted to see the storm damage.

The fire districts also received plenty of calls Saturday.

“In that one day, we put out a month’s worth of activity,” said Joe Biller, chief of Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue. His firefighters responded to approximately 30 calls Saturday.

He said some homes in Ledgewood were damaged by downed trees, but there weren’t any fires in the district. Firefighters did respond to one car accident near the intersection of Highway 20 and Welcher Road, where a car collided with a tree. Nobody was injured.

The fire district took measures to prepare for the storm. Staffing was increased to 15, up from the normal two.

District headquarters lost power for more than two hours when the generator failed to start. Biller said the generator normally tests itself weekly to see if it’s operating correctly. This was one time out of a hundred it failed to start.

Firefighters from North Whidbey Fire and Rescue responded to 45 calls in a 24-hour period. The calls ranged from medical situations to trees down, said Marv Koorn, fire chief.

They also responded to three car accidents, where one was a fatality, and there were two incidents where trees had fallen on homes.

The storm forced the closure of several roads throughout Island County. Those roads were closed either because of fallen trees or water over the roadway, said Randy Brackett with Island County Public Works Department. When someone encounters a tree blocking the road, they should call 911.

County crews were busy clearing roads over the weekend and they will gauge storm damage throughout the week.

Brackett said homes on Camano Island experienced severe damage when the high tides caused water to surge over dikes.

He said folks should prepare for a similar situation at the end of the month when more high tides are expected.

While the storm damaged homes and slowed traffic, it didn’t dampen the spirits of Seahawks fans eager to watch the Super Bowl. By Sunday afternoon, several spots on Whidbey Island were still without power by kickoff time.

Burckhard said his home lost power around 2:30 a.m. Saturday and it wasn’t restored until 5 p.m. Sunday. He hooked up his television to a generator and recorded the game.

The Lisenbery clan headed to Everett to watch the Super Bowl with friends.

Others in the area headed to local bars and restaurants to watch a heartbreaker when the Seahawks lost 21-10 to the Steelers.

Whidbey’s storms are often remembered for when they occur: Columbus Day, Thanksgiving Day, Inauguration Day, and now the Super Bowl Weekend Storm. It’s one that likely won’t be forgotten by thousands of islanders.

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