Many still remain without power across Whatcom County

A tree fell on a car at Lakeway and Woburn streets in Bellingham during high winds Saturday, Aug. 29. The driver was briefly trapped.
A tree fell on a car at Lakeway and Woburn streets in Bellingham during high winds Saturday, Aug. 29. The driver was briefly trapped. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Several thousand Whatcom County residents remained without power Sunday, Aug. 30, in the wake of a rare and deadly summer windstorm that knocked out power and toppled trees around the Puget Sound region.

Nearly 50,000 utility customers remained without power Sunday afternoon in several Western Washington counties, including 2,300 Puget Sound Energy customers in Whatcom County. Some of those residents could wait until 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1, for electricity to be restored, a PSE spokesperson said.

Many people who remained in the dark Sunday lived in rural areas or were near key transmission lines that were especially hard-hit, such as trees over power lines or downed utility poles, said PSE’s Christina Donegal.

“There is also just the fact that this area got hit really hard,” she said. Crews worked through the night, she said.

A home in the 3500 block of North Shore Drive was damaged Saturday night by a fire caused by a malfunctioning generator, said Will Anderson of the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office. Firefighters from Bellingham Fire, North Whatcom Fire and Rescue and South Whatcom Fire Authority battled the blaze, which started outside and spread into the home. Damage was an estimated $150,000-$200,000, Anderson said.

Many residents in the Birchwood neighborhood remained without power, as did those in North Bellingham, Custer and Lynden, among others.

Officials with Bellingham Public Schools said Birchwood and Silver Beach elementary schools remained without power late Sunday and likely would be closed Monday, Aug., 31. Regular classes were scheduled at all other Bellingham district schools. Families would be notified by 6 a.m. Monday.

Wind and rain from a storm that felt more like fall or winter pushed through the area Saturday, Aug. 29. About a half an inch of rain fell, as measured by the National Weather Service at Bellingham International Airport. Sustained winds were 20-40 mph, with higher gusts. A gust of 53 mph was recorded about 1 p.m., when the worst of the storm hit.

Trees and limbs, which were weakened by drought and still bore their leaves, fell across roadways and into homes and utility poles across the region. Two people were killed by falling limbs in the Seattle area and three people were injured by falling limbs in the Bellingham area, including a woman whose car was struck by a massive limb from a tree on Lakeway Drive at Woburn Street.

Homes were darkened and businesses were shuttered over a wide area of Bellingham and Whatcom County. Several events were canceled because of the freak storm, including the final summer showing of the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema.

Commercial areas that still had power — including restaurants, theaters and markets in the Barkley area — were inundated with customers seeking food and entertainment.

This week’s forecast called for continued rain, with temperatures in the 60s. A sunny Labor Day weekend was possible.

Reach Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com. Mittendorf is a volunteer firefighter with South Whatcom Fire Authority and assisted with emergency response in the storm’s aftermath.

Food safety

Use the information at this website in regard to food in refrigerators affected by a power outage: foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/refridg_food.html