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Winds leave island in the dark

Puget Sound Energy field engineer Terry Galbreath (above, left) and technician Colin Barnes inspect line damage on Miller Road near the Grand Forest, after high winds downed trees and blocked the roadway Saturday morning.  - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Puget Sound Energy field engineer Terry Galbreath (above, left) and technician Colin Barnes inspect line damage on Miller Road near the Grand Forest, after high winds downed trees and blocked the roadway Saturday morning.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Some homes were still without power on Monday morning, PSE officials said.

Light to see by? We can live without it.

Hot water? Who needs it?

Cable television? Now that was the essential service on the minds of Sunrise Drive residents surveying storm damage Saturday afternoon. After all, the Super Bowl was a mere 24 hours hence.

“Aw, geez, they better get it done by tomorrow,” said Cheryl Denton, as Puget Sound Energy crews surveyed downed trees and power lines that blacked out her neighborhood.

Then resignation set in, followed by resource.

“There’s a place in Poulsbo with a 10-foot screen,” Denton said, “so we’re heading there.”

In one of the crueler ironies perpetrated by Northwest elements, winds estimated at 60 mph darkened much of the Puget Sound region Saturday, cutting power to tens of thousands of households acrooss the region, including all of Bainbridge Island.

The dire turn sent local football fans scrambling to find other accommodations, not so much for personal comfort, but rather to view the Seattle Seahawks’ first-ever Super Bowl appearance the following day.

“There’ll be a billion people watching the game,” Sunrise resident Mike McKinstry said, “but 15,000 on Bainbridge won’t see it.”

Furious gusts blew in overnight Friday and continued through midday Saturday, combining with ground already saturated by weeks of rain to down trees all over the island.

The Ferncliff neighborhood was nearly cut off entirely, with trees across the roadway on Ferncliff, Grand and Lofgren roads. Sunrise Drive, Arrow Point Drive and Miller Road were among other major roadways cut off to traffic.

Efforts to reopen streets were hampered by a farrago of downed lines, which overwhelmed power company crews’ capacity for quick repairs.

Baker Hill neighbors took matters into their own hands Saturday afternoon when a massive evergreen toppled over as the winds receded. A passing motorist with a chainsaw in his pickup cut the trunk into manageable chunks, which bystanders then rolled off to the ditch.

Wind and tides ganged up on Manitou Beach Road, pitching beach gravel and hefty chunks of driftwood over the seawall and littering the roadway for a 30-yard stretch. Nearby, standing water covered both traffic lanes.

Out for a stroll to survey the storm damage Saturday morning, neighbor Jeff Garlid said he’d never seen anything like it in his 20 years on Bainbridge.

“I’m a looky-loo,” Garlid said. “I suppose I should be out here with something to clear the road.”

Puget Sound Energy spokeswoman Lynn Carlson said at the storm’s peak, there were about 140,000 customers without power in the region on Saturday afternoon, including 11,000 on Bainbridge. Storm damage was concentrated primarily in Kitsap, Jefferson and Island counties.

The company called in 25 to 30 crews from Northern California and Canada to help in the repair effort, which had as many as 116 crews working to restore power for a period.

As of 11 a.m. Monday, there were still 3,000 customers in Kitsap without power and 86 crews working in Kitsap alone.

“We’re still dealing with lines downed in more remote locations,” Carlson said.

The last time PSE dealt with a storm of this magnitude was a windstorm in March 1999, she said.

Despite the damage, Bainbridge Island’s assistant fire chief Luke Carpenter said the island got off relatively easy.

“It wasn’t bad,” Carpenter said. “It was labor intensive (to clean up), but by and large, people stayed healthy and stayed in, which is important.”

Carpenter said all the major island roads were blocked at one time or another. Seven fire trucks were in constant motion, with 20 volunteer and regular firefighters clearing road debris.

At one point, a fire truck responding to a tree cutting off Crystal Springs Drive found itself boxed in when a tree later fell on Baker Hill closing off its way out.

Some flooding on Point Monroe was also reported due to heavy rains, Carpenter said, and a few islanders were treated for medical conditions aggravated by the power outage.

More than 55 calls were received by the fire department from midnight-to-midnight Saturday, about nine times more than a usual weekend.

The storm turned out to be a good test run of the emergency communication center at each fire hall, activated at the request of the Kitsap Department of Emergency Management. Police shared the fire stations – all of which have power generators – as the police station lost power.

The storm also took its toll on local wildlife. Sunrise Drive neighbors were dismayed to see that the winds snapped off the top of a tree where a pair of nesting eagles had been building an aerie for several weeks.

While power to much of the island was restored in time for the Super Bowl, the future was by no means certain for islanders trying to find a cup of coffee in blacked-out Winslow Saturday morning. There was nary a cup to be had at the Town & Country espresso stand, sending the caffeine-deprived tramping off in search of a good fix elsewhere.

“Well,” one longtime islander mused, “you chose to live in the woods.”

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