SHINE — The closure of 50 miles of U.S. Highway 101 continued on Wednesday as utility crews worked to clear trees and restore electrical power in south Jefferson County after what a state spokesperson called “catastrophic damage” from a snow and wind storm on Sunday night.
Highway 101 is closed from its intersection with state Highway 104 to Hoodsport. Local traffic only is allowed on the stretch. Through traffic is advised to detour around the closure on state highways 3 and 104.
The state Department of Transportation has no estimated date for reopening the stretch of highway, said Doug Adamson, department spokesperson.
As of Wednesday afternoon, about 5 miles of Highway 101 just north of Hoodsport remained impassable due to powerlines and trees on the highway, he said.
“Because of the terrain, winter conditions and the lack of available space for vehicles to turn around, the closure points will remain in place until utility crews finish repairs and the highway is clear of debris,” he said in a press release.
“They are trying to cover some catastrophic damage to the utility system,” Adamson said Wednesday morning.
Kristin Masteller, general manager for Mason County Public Utility District 1, which serves Brinnon, took issue with the word “catastrophic.”
“We’ve got a lot stuff down,” she said, “but it’s not catastrophic. Most people will be back in service” on Wednesday.
In contrast, all Jefferson PUD customers on the Toandos Peninsula who lost electrical power in the storm probably won’t be back online until today or Friday, according to Will O’Donnell, spokesperson for the agency.
The Toandos Peninsula, which includes Coyle, was the hardest hit in Jefferson County, said O’Donnell, who did not object to the description of “catastrophic.”
“Whole trees were coming down on power lines, just knocking down power lines” because of snow and intense winds, O’Donnell said.
“When the crews first went out, trees were coming down around them as they were trying to put lines back up.”
The crews aren’t having to deal with that on Wednesday, but areas on the Toandos Peninsula remained the hardest to reach, necessitating snow plows and constant tree removal.
“We just keep learning about more damage the farther we get into it,” O’Donnell said.
The area had some 8 to 12 inches of snow, along with very high winds, according to Coyle resident Karen Grooms.
“Our electrical superintendent said on the north side of Highway 104, it was rain and green grass. South of 104 is where the snow starts,” O’Donnell said.
Quilcene was expected to be fully back online on Wednesday, he said.
As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, 176 customers were without electrical power, most of them near Coyle.
Both the Jefferson and Mason 1 PUDs had called in crews from elsewhere, including Clallam PUD, to help with repairs and power restoration.
Snow expected late Wednesday could complicate matters.
“We’re expecting a rapid transition to rain (from snow) late” Wednesday evening, said Maddie Kristell, meteorologist with the Seattle office of the National Weather Service on Wednesday.
She said the forecast was for rain throughout Western Washington today, with the heaviest downpour in the southwestern part of the state.
A weakened, but continued, Fraser Outflow from British Columbia apparently is cooling the air slightly and contributing to the formation of ice and black ice on roads.
Public schools throughout Clallam County delayed classes on Wednesday because of icy roads.
Brinnon School canceled classes for another day on Wednesday.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].