Wind gusts cause some 6,000 outages on Peninsula

Pole breaks in Clallam County; line replaced in Jefferson County

High winds sent branches and small trees flying through the air to knock out electrical power to about 6,000 homes and businesses on the North Olympic Peninsula late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning as a low pressure system moved through the region.

Public utility district crews worked from about midnight through the morning in both Clallam and Jefferson counties to restore power.

At their peaks, Jefferson County Public Utility District (PUD) had about 4,000 customers out of power, while Clallam County PUD reported about 2,000 outages, with a large portion in Neah Bay.

By 3 p.m. Wednesday, Neah Bay’s power had been restored after a broken transmission line was replaced and Clallam County PUD reported only two outages, while in Jefferson County, some outages that had been fixed broke again, so it was reporting 1,085 without power.

Fallen trees not only took down power lines, they also blocked roads.

The State Patrol closed U.S. Highway 101 in both directions at milepost 215 near Heckel Road to milepost 231 just before 7 a.m. Wednesday, closing access around Lake Crescent.

That halted delivery of Wednesday’s Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum newspapers to the West End. Wednesday’s Peninsula Daily News is expected to be delivered with Thursday’s papers.

Working throughout the night, Jefferson PUD crews managed to restore power to about 3,000 customers, getting the total out down to 1,000 by noon Wednesday, said Will O’Donnell, communications director.

That included restoring power to Marrowstone Island, which had suffered a 736-meter outage, but that repair showed damage elsewhere on the line and it had to be shut down again, O’Donnell said Wednesday afternoon.

At 3 p.m., crews were replacing some 60 feet of line to power up Marrowstone Island, hopefully by Wednesday evening, O’Donnell said.

Some 975 customers lost power in the Quilcene area after a Bonneville Power Administration transmission line that feeds a substation tripped out. Power had been restored to the Quilcene area by noon Wednesday.

Because of the scattered nature of many of the outages throughout East Jefferson County, all customers were not likely to be back up until this morning or early afternoon, O’Donnell said.

The city of Port Angeles also had limited outages overnight.

“Only a few homes in two localized areas experienced service disruption, and all calls were cleared within two hours of being reported,” said Thomas Hunter, Port Angeles Public Works and Utilities director.

Winds began gusting late Tuesday into Wednesday as a low pressure system moved across the northwest part of the state, said Samantha Borth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.

“We had high pressure kind of building behind it, and that’s what caused that surge of wind in that area,” Borth said.

Peak gusts were reported at 55 mph on Destruction Island, 52 mph in Port Townsend and 41 mph in Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks, Borth said.

“It’s not unusual by any means for January,” she added.

Borth said another weather system was forecast to move into the region tonight into Friday, with more windy conditions expected Saturday night into Sunday.

“It’s not looking too significant right now,” Borth said. “It just may be breezy in a few spots.”

Heavy rain during the last couple of days was due to an “atmospheric river” coming from the tropics — what area residents have long called a “Pineapple Express” — and the Tuesday night rain was the end of it, said NWS meteorologist Gary Schneider.

For updated conditions, see the Clallam County PUD outage map or the Jefferson County PUD outage map.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

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