PORT ANGELES — Strong winds flowing off the Olympic Mountains ravaged trees and knocked out power to all of Clallam County on Friday, triggering a state of emergency in the city of Port Angeles.
Despite extensive property damage, no injuries or deaths were attributed to the storm, Clallam County Undersheriff and Emergency Management Director Ron Cameron said.
“I think we did pretty well under the circumstances,” Cameron said in a Saturday interview.
“It’s a good taste of what could happen in a major event.”
The economic impact of the storm had not been determined Saturday. Local officials will assess the damage in the coming days, Cameron said.
Clallam County would be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance if the damage to public infrastructure exceeds $263,000.
“We do have significant damage,” Cameron said.
More than 17,000 Clallam County Public Utility District and city of Port Angeles customers lost power Friday morning when gusty downslope winds ripped through the lowlands.
The rest of the county went dark shortly after 2 p.m. when two Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) transmission lines went out amid high winds.
The National Weather Service said a “mountain wave” flowing off the north slopes of the Olympics caused a spike in temperatures and gusts of 60 to 65 mph in the Port Angeles area Friday morning and early afternoon.
“It’s a function of how strong the winds aloft are and the stability of the air mass,” said Jay Albrecht, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
“The winds aloft were exceptionally strong yesterday, and then stability profile [instability] of the atmosphere lined up.”
Albrecht said mountain waves like the one that rattled Port Angeles and sent temperatures soaring into the 60s are fairly uncommon.
“They’re really hard to forecast,” Albrecht added.
More than 20 first responders and elected officials gathered in the generator-powered Clallam County Emergency Operations Center on Friday night to assess transportation, communications, water, public health, public safety and other concerns.
“We’re trying to create a public information push out there to try to get people to ignore the rumors,” Cameron told the assembled officials.
“We’ve heard as much as four days [without power], as little as two days. Who knows? It could be 10 hours.”
BPA restored power to the Port Angeles substation at about 10:30 p.m. Friday.
Electricity was back on for most of the Sequim area late Friday night. The West End had power by Saturday morning, Clallam County PUD officials said.
All but 500 of the 11,000 customers in Port Angeles had power by 9 a.m. Saturday, City Manager Nathan West said.
Anyone still without power in Port Angeles is asked to phone 360-417-4726.
PUD customers can report outages at 360-452-9771.
“Just because your power is out, or at some point perceived to be still out, it is imperative that you do not approach downed lines or attempt to clear any branches, trees, etc. from around lines,” PUD spokeswoman Nicole Clark said.
After a planned outage west of Laird’s Corner to remove a “danger tree” Saturday afternoon, most PUD customers were back online, officials said.
During the BPA outage, the city of Port Angeles declared a state of emergency due to high winds.
The Peninsula Communications dispatch center received 793 calls for service — about twice the average volume — between 5 a.m. Friday and 4:41 a.m. Saturday.
Many of those calls were for trees down, wires down and medical problems.
“Law enforcement call volume is really very low,” Clallam County Chief Criminal Sheriff’s Deputy Brian King said Friday. “It’s mostly EMS (emergency medical services) related.”
Olympic Medical Center was running on backup generators and providing emergency services Friday, OMC spokeswoman Bobby Beeman said.
The American Red Cross set up an emergency shelter in the Vern Burton Community Center, where one person spent the night, Red Cross spokesman Ray Lapine said.
Port Angeles Chief of Police Brian Smith said Friday he was concerned about property damage in the pitch-black downtown area.
“Our concerns were unfounded,” Smith said in a second storm briefing Saturday morning.
“We have no reports of property crime that I’m aware of.”
The city of Port Angeles issued a water conservation notice during the outage because of a generator malfunction at the Ranney well groundwater collector near the Elwha River, city officials said.
The water conservation notice and state of emergency were lifted after power was restored.
State Highway 112 was closed from Joyce to state Highway 113 on Friday because of fallen trees.
Numerous city streets and county roads, including Palo Alto Road and Edgewood Drive, were closed for downed trees and power lines.
“We’ve got a long list of roads that are not completely blocked,” said Joe Donisi, assistant Clallam County engineer. “Some are completely blocked.”
East Jefferson County was spared from the worst of the winds. A recording station at Jefferson County International Airport near Port Townsend recorded a peak gust of 35 mph Friday afternoon.
Jefferson County PUD reported a wind-related power outage in Gardiner on Thursday but no outages on its Twitter feed Friday.
Quillayute Airport near Forks had a peak gust of 38 mph Friday. Sequim’s highest gust was 26 mph at an unofficial recording station.
Forks City Attorney and Planner Rod Fleck said there were reports of fallen trees in yards and possibly a “house or two” in Forks but no reports of injuries.
The Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles sustained damage from a tree fall over the auditorium and was without power Saturday. Crews were assessing the damage, park spokeswoman Penny Wagner said. All other park visitor centers were closed Saturday.
Elsewhere in the park, the Hurricane Ridge Road above the entrance station was closed Saturday. The Heart O’ the Hills campground also remained closed due to a power outage and storm debris.
The Barnes Point area at Lake Crescent, including Lake Crescent Lodge, was without power and on a boil water notice Saturday.
In the Hoh Rain Forest, Jefferson County closed the Upper Hoh Road outside the park boundary at milepost 8.
The Upper and Lower Queets roads remained closed Saturday due to downed trees and debris and will reopen when cleared.
Albrecht said trees on the North Olympic Peninsula, which tend to grow to stand against westerly winds, were susceptible to Friday’s southerly winds.
“The trees can’t handle that odd direction very well,” Albrecht said.
A slew of wind-driven shingles lay in Eric Munger’s yard between the Eighth Street bridges in Port Angeles.
“My whole yard is full of them,” Munger, a county Sheriff’s detective sergeant, said mid-morning Friday.
Munger and some helpers were tarping up his roof for repairs later on.
“Another day in paradise,” Munger quipped.
Businesses that remained open during the outage, including Lower Elwha Food and Fuel near Port Angeles, were bustling with customers stocking up on fuel and emergency supplies.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].