Gusty winds bring down trees, power lines

Thousands left without power as windstorm moves through

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

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Strong winds toppled an evergreen tree Saturday on Dogwood Drive in Vancouver's Northwest neighborhood. (Courtesy Jim Mains)

RIDGEFIELD — The sound of a tall cottonwood tree crashing through his roof was like an explosion, Kemper Hall said Saturday afternoon.

“It sounded like a bomb,” he said. “Just the noise — it was fast and it was sudden, and then it was over.”

The tree smashed into the top of the 1,500-square-foot apartment he and his wife rent at the Whipple Creek Village on Northeast 179th Avenue in Ridgefield, adding a sudden sunroof in the retired couple’s bedroom. Nobody was hurt.

Neighbor Allison French and her husband watched the tree fall from their own apartment a few buildings away. She said trees in the forested area just south of the apartment had fallen before, but they rarely, if ever, fell northward as the cottonwood did Saturday.

“We were already standing by the window and just saw it fall, then heard ‘boom!’” she said.
Hall, who was the only person home when the tree fell, just said the tree was large, and he was waiting for property owners to take a look.

“We’re just waiting right now for the responsible parties to come,” he said.

The couple’s close encounter was one of several reported throughout Clark County as the remnants of Typhoon Songda brought heavy wind and rain into the Pacific Northwest. Reports throughout the week predicted blustery winds throughout the region Saturday, spanning the Willamette Valley to the Olympic peninsula in Washington. Wind speeds were expected to peak between 45 and 60 mph, knocking down trees and power lines along the way.

The storm arrived shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday, though the most forceful winds ebbed after about two hours, with peak gusts of 46 mph west of Ridgefield near the Columbia River, 41 mph in Salmon Creek and 39 mph in Battle Ground.

The Vancouver Public Works Department fielded 11 reports of downed trees or tree limbs, while the Clark County Public Works Department also answered 17 of its own weather-related calls. Clark Public Utility restored power for more than 11,400 residents.

“We saw the impacts we expected,” said Matthew Cullen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Portland office. “Perhaps in terms of the actual number, it was around or a little bit below the actual forecast, but in terms of the impacts of trees and power lines, we kind of saw what we expected.”

Before wind gusts became the primary concern, heavy rainfall on Friday led to reports of localized flooding throughout Portland and in parts of Vancouver. According to the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, localized flooding occurred at 164th Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard and at 192nd Avenue and Mill Plain. Parts of Camas saw some flooding as well, he said.

According to the weather service, about 2.7 inches of rain has hit the area just in the past three days.

Officials with the Washington Department of Transportation said there were steady calls regarding debris, mostly in Pacific County, but the agency kept staff available in preparation for the storm.

“Having the extra staff really helped,” said Tamara Greenwell, a spokesperson for WSDOT. “We positioned people throughout the region so calls were responded to quickly and cleared quickly. The storm kind of pushed through, but the gusts were pretty steady.”