OROVILLE – The north half of Okanogan County took the brunt of an unusual summer windstorm with gusts recorded as high as 74 miles an hour in Oroville.
The wind pushed over trees and broke branches, many of which fell on power lines knocking out power to as many as 1500 customers in Tonasket and Oroville at one time, according to Derek Miller, chief engineer for Okanogan County PUD.
“We had blinks and blips everywhere, especially Tonasket north,” said Miller, who added they lost some power poles on the mainline at the Tonasket substation.
Other secondary power outages were recorded in the Havillah area and some in Omak, according to Miller.
“We whittled the problems on down Thursday night, but they were so widespread and there were so many wires down that the majority of the work wasn’t finished until Friday night.
“We had all four PUD crews out,” he said, adding that many of the calls about downed wires turned out to be cable and phone lines.
“That’s okay, we don’t want to discourage anyone from calling it in if they see a downed wire,” he said.
Many of the problems at people’s residences were due to meter bases being taken right off the house by falling trees and branches hitting them, according to Miller.
“When that happens the homeowner must get an electrician to fix the problem before the PUD will reconnect the line. That’s the resident’s responsibility,” he said.
Miller adds that it wasn’t a typical storm for the area. “There were no clouds and the temperatures just dropped. The storm came just a week after PUD crews had to put in overtime because of the lightening strike that caused the Jackass Butte Fire.”
The National Weather Service confirmed that there were sustained winds in the county of 59 miles per hour.
“A wind is called sustained when it holds an average speed for at least two minutes,” said Laurie Nisbet, a meteorologist with the Spokane office of the National Weather Service.
“Oroville had wind gusts measuring as high as 74 miles an hour,” said Nisbet.
Several trees or large limbs were blown down during the storm, including one cottonwood tree that fell on a travel trailer at Osoyoos Lake Veteran’s Memorial State Park.
No one was hurt in the incident, but the park ranger called in a tree trimming service to remove the tree from the trailer.
Nearly all those who were tent camping in the park soon found their tents were flattened by the winds.
“It pretty much flattened everyone’s camp,” said Coleene Hollingshead, a visitor from Yakima who was camping in the park with her son Jacob.
At least one of Oroville’s newer trees planted in the sidewalk near Frontier Foods (formerly Beeman’s) was toppled and unable to be saved. Several people reported trees and limbs on their roofs and in their yards. The city crew was removing large tree branches blocking the street near Henry Kiniss Park. Shingles were seen raining down on vehicles parked at both the post office and Oroville Family Medical Center.
Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said his office was busy during the storm, but no injuries were reported in the county due to the storm.
“We pretty much cleared the building and were out blocking roads and working with the firefighters there were so many spot fires,” said Rogers.
He said it was “weird” how quickly the temperature dropped. “Just like that it went from being in the seventies to the low fifties he said.
“It was just crazy there were trees going down everywhere,” said the sheriff.