“Blow, winds and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!”

Posted 10/23/19

Fall windstorms left the Olympic Peninsula a bit tempest-tossed recently, even tornado-blasted.

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“Blow, winds and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!”

Posted

Fall windstorms left the Olympic Peninsula a bit tempest-tossed recently, even tornado-blasted.

Nothing so dire as Shakespeare’s betrayed King Lear daring Nature to do her worst (“Rage! Blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!”) but the rapid shift from the mild summer of 2019 to typical Puget Sound autumn was dramatic.

Last Wednesday, Oct. 16, The American Constellation cruise ship circuited Port Townsend Bay for several hours, as gusts of wind prevented the ship’s captain from making a smooth landing at Union Wharf downtown.

The American Constellation takes visitors on a cruise around the Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, but as 40-mile-an-hour winds battered the tall sides of the ship, passengers got a special tour of the Bay, as the Constellation made several passes, awaiting a break in the wind to make its contact with the dock in smoother waters.

When gusts slowed down considerably, to around 9 miles per hour at about 4 p.m., the Constellation was able to sidle up to the dock, and passengers unloaded with wobbly legs.

The Jefferson County Public Utility District used its Facebook and Twitter accounts on Oct. 16 to report that blowing winds had resulted in “small clusters of outages scattered” across Jefferson County at 8:21 a.m. That’s to be expected October through April, when PUD staff see the most weather-related issues.

Here’s how their day went:

By 11:09 a.m., the PUD’s social media accounts reported, “The wind is keeping our crews busy,” with approximately 225 customers affected at that time.

Although winds were expected to continue until at least 5 p.m., the PUD promised its crews would remain on the scene until power was restored to all customers.

By 11:15 a.m., the PUD had restored power to 116 of its customers near East Quilcene Road, but four areas were still affected by outages, with approximately 112 customers without power.

By noon, power had been restored to 37 customers on McMinn Road, and the PUD was down to three outages, with approximately 75 customers.

By 2 p.m, the PUD reported that power had been restored to all but roughly 25 customers, and by 4:56 p.m., the PUD posted, “The winds are slowing, and our crews are finishing up with the last couple of outages,” even as it warned that more wind could be coming later that evening.

PUD Communications Manager Will O’Donnell explained that the PUD currently has two line crews, each made up of four members, for a total of eight responders, but he added that the PUD is also interviewing for two additional crew members, and should have 10 total by Dec. 1.

Although the time required to restore power varies depending on the nature of the outage, O’Donnell said, “Generally, the outages were resolved quickly” on Oct. 16.

“If the outage is underground, or if a pole comes down, the repair may take eight hours or more,” said O’Donnell, who rated the number of customers with power outages on Oct. 16 — no more than about 250 at any one time — as relatively small.

“The outages were caused by a number of different incidents at separate locations across the county, which means some people were restored quickly, and others not so quickly, due to the fact that their incidents took longer to respond to.”

An estimated 100 customers experienced a similar power outage Oct. 20, one day after the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down in Mason County, near Shelton, on the evening of Oct. 19.

The tornado touched down for about 5 minutes, dealing out winds estimated between 90-100 miles per hour.

The tornado traveled on land for approximately 0.68 miles, before moving over the water of Pickering Passage and dissipating as a water spout.

No one was hurt, but the NWS sent a team to the area on the afternoon of Oct. 20 to survey the damage, whose path was up to 90 yards in length.

O’Donnell noted that the PUD conducts a staff meeting early each October, to discuss outage readiness and communication, both inside the PUD and externally, before it stocks up its inventory, to make sure its crews have extra equipment and tools on hand, ready to be used in the field.

“We do as much tree-trimming as we can, to minimize the number of tree limbs coming into contact with power lines,” O’Donnell said. “Trees are the number-one cause of outages in Jefferson County, and tree-trimming is our best method of defense.”

O’Donnell pointed out that the PUD passed a budget with $750,000 for tree-trimming in 2020, and has spent “at least that much or more most years” since the public utility district began.

To prepare for the possibility of more major outages this fall and winter, O’Donnell advised PUD customers to store up to three days’ worth of supplies, including water, blankets, and dried or canned food, with spare or backup batteries on hand and charged for both your flashlights and your smartphones.

The PUD regularly updates its website and social media accounts during outages, to keep its customers informed, but those customers should also maintain contact with neighbors, as well as family and friends outside the local area.

“Keep your vehicle fueled up before any forecasted severe storms, in case you need to seek other accommodations,” O’Donnell said. “And be safe! Stay away from downed power lines, and do not operate generators or combustion space heaters indoors.”

If your power goes out, you should call the PUD at 360-385-5800.

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