Trees crash into houses while others lose power

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter and Andy Matarrese, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

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Strong winds out of the Columbia River Gorge toppled trees early Thursday, damaging at least two houses and downing power lines throughout Clark County. Two people were reported injured when trees crashed into their houses.

The first incident occurred about 6:20 a.m. when a falling tree crashed into a house in Vancouver’s Marrion neighborhood, briefly trapping a woman underneath it.

Lisa El-Hoot was asleep in bed when the tree struck a corner of her home, 10502 N.E. 11th St., trapping her underneath the rubble, family and emergency responders reported.

Her husband and three teenage children worked to help free her, Lisa’s son Abdul El-Hoot said.

“I heard a loud bang. … My sister came down and screamed, ‘Mom’s in trouble,'” Abdul said. “We sprinted down the room and saw that a tree was on mom, and we were just trying to get her out.”

Abdul called 911 and then helped push aside boards and tree branches to free her. By the time crews arrived from the Vancouver Fire Department, Lisa El-Hoot was on the living room floor, firefighter and spokesman Kevin Stromberg said.

The woman was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

“It’s very fortunate, it’s a very large tree,” Stromberg said.

Crews did a structural assessment, finding that the trusses and roof were unstable, so the family of five will need to find a new place to stay. Volunteers with the American Red Cross responded to assist the family with their immediate needs.

Jessica and Kenneth Deere live next door, and the tree that fell, a blue spruce that normally stands about 65 to 70 feet tall, came from their yard. Their house sustained minor damage.

“I heard a huge crash, and had a little heart attack from the crash, spring out of bed and look out the window and there’s a giant tree,” Jessica Deere said.

The couple’s 3-year-old daughter sleeps in the bedroom with them, and was only about two or three feet from where the tree fell.

When she knew that her kids were all right, Jessica Deere ran outside and over to the neighbor’s house to make sure everyone there was also OK.

“We’re thankful, it could have been a lot worse,” Kenneth Deere said. “It really puts into perspective how precious life is and how quickly things can turn. We’re very thankful and blessed that everyone’s OK.”

Another person was injured when a tree fell into a Camas house later Thursday morning.

Firefighters from the Camas-Washougal Fire Department were called to a house at 2547 N.W. 11th Ave. just before 11 a.m. for a report of a tree that fell into the house, Fire Chief Nick Swinhart said.

One adult who was in the room that the tree fell into suffered minor injuries and was taken to an area hospital.

Winds picked up late Wednesday morning and continued into Thursday evening, with winds up to 22 mph and a peak gust of 39 mph recorded shortly after noon at Pearson Field in Vancouver.

Power outages

Along with knocking trees into homes, the weather cut power to thousands overnight and throughout the day, according to Clark Public Utilities spokeswoman Erica Erland, but most outages were dealt with relatively quickly.

In the largest outages, tree limbs falling into power lines cut power to roughly 16,000 customers from about 1-3 a.m. Thursday morning, Erland said.

A tree in Hazel Dell also crashed into power lines overnight, causing a brief but large outage, she said.

The outage was reported just after 1 a.m., affecting 2,472 customers. Soon after, 4,129 customers in Battle Ground lost power due to a transmission issue. Nearly all of those customers had their power restored by 3 a.m.

As of 7 p.m. Thursday, roughly 20,000 customers lost, then were reconnected to, their power throughout the day, according to Clark Public Utilities information.

“Throughout the rest of the day there continued to be smaller weather-related outages popping up, but the crews have been able to stay on top of them as they arise,” she said.