Batten down the blue tarp: ‘Monster storm’ expected

By Brian Soergel | Oct 12, 2016
Photo by: Brian Soergel A large tree covered both lanes of Olympic View Drive in March 2016 after a windstorm swept through Edmonds.

He went there.

Noted meteorologist Cliff Mass said this on his blog Tuesday, Oct. 11: “A true monster storm, potentially as strong as the most powerful storm in NW history (the Columbus Day Storm of 1962), will be approaching our area on Saturday.”

This after noting that “starting Thursday (Oct. 13), we will enter a period of extraordinarily active weather with the potential for heavy rain, flooding, and a highly dangerous windstorm with the potential to be an historic event.”

And then there’s this from the U.S. National Weather Service in Seattle, which says there may be gusts of up to 60 mph:

“Be prepared for an impressively stormy period from Thursday through Sunday. The biggest threats will be from flooding rain and about three separate rounds of possibly damaging wind. Heaviest rain should occur on Thursday and Saturday.

“The first round of strong wind is expected Thursday, but the strongest may come Saturday when the revived leftovers of Typhoon Songda make the closest pass to the Pacific Northwest. Along the coast, giant waves and coastal saltwater flooding appear likely, especially this weekend.”

You’ve been warned.

In Edmonds, as in all of Puget Sound, one of the biggest dangers from windstorms comes from toppled trees.

“If I had one message to get out to the public, it would be for the awareness of downed trees that are in power lines,” said Tod Moles, the city of Edmonds’ street and storm manager. “Too often we see people approaching downed trees or wires that have the potential to kill.”

What to do if a tree falls down or on your residence?

“Second to a downed wire, this situation has the highest potential to cause injury or death,” Moles said. “If a tree comes down during dark hours, be very careful assessing the damage. A tree that falls into power lines can become energized, creating a very dangerous situation. I would suggest waiting until daylight hours to make an assessment of the situation. For life-threatening emergencies, call 911.”

Only PUD personnel can declare a powerline to be safe, Moles said. Public Works employees are instructed to stay away from these conditions until a PUD employee physically removes the wires from the tree or street.

“Only then are Public Works employees allowed to do the work to clear the right-of-way,” he said. “This is a very dangerous situation that has so much hidden potential to harm or kill. The best thing to do when you witness a power line down is to stay clear and, again, calling 911.”

PUD spokesman Neil Neroutsos said crews are ready to hit the streets whenever storms hit.

“In addition,” he said, “we have arrangements with mutual aid crews from other utilities, and contract crews who can support our efforts. In past storms, we have had more than 500 workers in the field working in various roles to restore power to customers.”

The region’s last major windstorm, in March, knocked down seven trees that blocked streets. Olympic View Drive was shut down for nearly 24 hours. It was the third windstorm of the past year. The two previous storms cost the city $112,000, Moles said, and the city also received federal funds as they were federally declared disasters.

March’s storm did not qualify for federal aid, Moles said.

“It seems as though (these storms) may be the new norm,” Moles told the Beacon in March.

City staff will be on standby to close streets and clear obstacles if needed for the upcoming weather event. In addition, Public Works has an on-call process for after-hour responses.

“If residents see standing water, trees down or roads obstructed, they should call 911 to get our on-call personnel activated. The Street and Storm division is blessed to have a very dedicated staff willing to respond to events like this. It can be a perilous job going out to protect the public closing roads, clearing trees and unplugging drains during the event.

“Obviously we are well aware of the potential this storm has to cause flooding and property damage due to trees and obstructed storm drains. We will have our entire staff out clearing drains Thursday in preparation, but the fact is that the trees are still holding fall foliage and we anticipate many problems with drains.”

Moles encourages residents to be aware of the drains on their street and clear them when needed or get a response going by calling 911.

On Wednesday, Washington State Ferries sent out an alert to riders that, in inclement weather, boats may not be loaded to full capacity, in order to stabilize the vessels and keep more weight on the boat’s stern.

It added that central Puget Sound and south Puget Sound routes – which includes Edmonds to Kingston service – are not likely to experience many impacts from the storms, though it’s possible that heavy traffic will delay service.

“Washington State Ferries is fortunate to have many highly-trained and capable captains, crews, and staff who are prepared for any situation,” it said in a news release. “We ask that customers please extend their patience and cooperation to them as delays and cancellations are likely. WSF will closely monitor the situation and provide updates as necessary.”

PUD tips

If the power goes out, remember these important tips from the Snohomish County PUD:

• Stay at least 30 feet away from any fallen power lines, including lines that are sagging or broken. Also, don’t cut up fallen trees that are entangled with power lines. The safe thing to do is assume all power lines are alive and can be a killer if touched.

• Call the PUD if you have specific information about the location of a downed tree or if you see a power line on the ground. Outages can be reported by calling 425-783-1001. If it’s a life-threatening situation or medical emergency, call 911.

• Try to remember what was turned on at the time the power went out and turn the switches to those items to the “off ” position. It’s especially important to turn off anything that has a heating element, such as the electric range, an iron, or a toaster oven. Turning items off will prevent a fire when the power is restored.

• Unplug sensitive electronics to prevent damage from potential electrical surges. It’s not necessary to turn off water heaters.

• Don’t try to power your house by plugging a portable generator into a wall outlet. The generator will backfeed electricity through the meter and out into the neighborhood, which will cause a severe safety hazard to neighbors and line workers. If using a portable generator, make sure the appliances being powered are plugged directly to the generator, or make sure your home is disconnected from the PUD’s electric system with a transfer switch installed by a licensed electrician.

• Make sure you have fresh batteries for flashlights. Always exercise extreme caution if you use candles or oil lamps. Never leave them unattended, and keep them away from furniture, drapes, and other flammable materials.

• Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible. The contents should be good for at least 24 hours if the door is kept closed. After that, use dry ice for the continued protection of your food.

• Stay warm. Choose a small room with few windows as your emergency living quarters. Keep the windows, drapes, and doors closed. Also, dress warmly. Wear several layers of clothes and don’t forget to wear a hat.

• Conserve water, especially in areas where well pumps and pumping stations may be without power.

• If you use a portable heater that burns liquid fuel, make sure you have a window open for ventilation.

• Stay informed. PUD staff share storm updates with KIRO-FM (97.3), KOMO-AM/FM (1000/97.7), KSER-FM (90.7), and KRKO-AM (1380).

For life-threatening emergencies, call 911.

To report a power outage, call the PUD at 425-783-1001 or 877-783-1001.


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