The first major wind storm of the season knocked out power for nearly 35,000 Island County residents and felled trees and power lines up and down the island over the weekend.
Of those affected, around 24,000 live on Whidbey Island. Gusts reached over 42 miles per hour in Coupeville Friday night, according to weather reports from the Washington State University Island County Extension, and may have been even faster elsewhere on the island.
The damage was extensive.
“An assessment via helicopter early Saturday revealed that in addition to transmission line damage, there was also a great deal of damage to the distribution lines and service lines,” Puget Sound Energy public relations manager Melanie Coon wrote in an email.
Power poles and transformers were also among the storm’s casualties. Coon said crews sent to restore power often discovered more extensive damage than originally anticipated upon arriving at damaged areas, which lengthened the estimated restoration time.
Power outages began Friday evening. The energy company dispatched 42 crews to the island to complete power-restoring repairs, and the lights came back on gradually throughout the weekend. As of Tuesday morning, around 4,700 customers in the county were still without power.
South Whidbey was hit especially hard, with power expected to be restored to the last of the neighborhoods Tuesday night. South Whidbey School District had to cancel all classes and activities on Monday because there was no power at the school for the better part of the morning.
One South End resident, Steven Horton, described his power as “off and on, mostly off,” from Saturday evening until Monday at 6:45 p.m. Winds were strong in his area, uprooting and toppling a 100-foot Douglas Fir on his property Saturday night.
“It’s lying like a beached whale in my backyard,” he wrote in an email.
Deputy Chief Terry Ney of South Whidbey Fire/EMS reported that between 9 p.m. Friday evening and noon on Monday, the department received 87 calls, around 70 of which were storm-related. He said the department typically receives around 7 calls per day.
Central Whidbey Deputy Fire Chief Jerry Helm said the department fielded around 50 weather-related calls over the weekend and that the storm caused major damage in Coupeville. Downed trees and power lines on Highway 525 and North Bluff Road cut off all major response routes and presented significant challenges in coordinating emergency responses, he said.
“Whidbey Island was essentially severed into two separate islands Friday evening,” he said.
Some Whidbey residents expressed concerns that the storm might delay or otherwise impact the election. Island County Elections Supervisor Michele Reagan said this is not the case, and as of Monday, the county intends to proceed with the Nov. 8 election as planned.