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Strong Winds And High Water In North Idaho Kootenai, Bonner Counties Report Beached Boats And Downed Trees

As the howling wind ripped the huge pine tree from its roots and sent it crashing toward the road, Regie Brusell had about two seconds to decide what to do.

He ducked.

The towering tree still struck home - directly on top of Brusell’s truck.

Brusell was one of many North Idaho residents who witnessed Mother Nature’s fury Sunday night and Monday.

Shrieking winds up to 58 mph splintered trees like match sticks, ripped docks from their moorings, whisked part of the roof off of a school and beached several boats.

Almost 5,000 North Idaho residents went without power. And pouring rain pushed Lake Coeur d’Alene to a dangerous level.

Brusell was driving to work Monday morning in his Shea Construction Co. pickup truck. He was heading north on Government Way near Boekel Road when he came around a curve.

That’s when he saw the pine tree plunging toward the ground.

“There was just no escape,” Brusell said. “I didn’t have time to do anything but hit the brakes and lie down in my seat.”

The pine caved in the driver’s side of the cab - missing Brusell - and then smashed in the back end of the truck. Brusell crawled out of the passenger door, unscathed.

“I was just glad not to be hurt, to tell you the truth,” he said.

In Post Falls, trees smashed in a man’s carport. At Q’emiln Park along the Spokane River, trees piled on top of each other where they had fallen. Half a dozen had snapped in two. Another half-dozen had been uprooted.

“The ground is so wet that a lot of the trees are uprooting, they’re pulling right out of the ground,” said Capt. Ben Wolfinger of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

Falling trees pulled many power lines to the ground with them. Washington Water Power Co. officials reported 2,000 to 3,000 customers without electricity - some for up to 12 hours.

Kootenai Electric Cooperative reported another 2,000 customers without power. Both companies hoped to have the majority of electricity restored by today.

Power outages forced Falls Christian Academy to close. Wind also ripped about 4,000 feet of shingles off the roof at Prairie View Elementary School in Post Falls.

The Blackwell Island area also was hit hard. The wind ripped two long rows of dock buildings off of their pilings, rammed them together and shoved them up against the land.

The boats moored inside followed along. Some were left sitting in 6 inches of water or were partially beached. The bow of one boat punched through the wall of an abandoned boat building.

A piece of metal roofing from one of the docks was under water.

“There’s a lot of damage here,” Bill Schwartz, director of Kootenai County Disaster Services, said as he surveyed the battered docks. “We’re talking thousands of dollars.”

In Harrison, the city’s breakwater sustained about $10,000 in damage as pilings ripped apart, Schwartz said. The Harrison tour boat broke free and drifted into what usually is marshland, while other docks broke loose and floated into the lake.

Lake Coeur d’Alene has risen so high that Coeur d’Alene city officials warned people Monday to stay away from the beaches. Most of Sanders Beach was submerged in icy water. The water at City Beach had risen almost to the base of the lifeguard towers.

“The combination of high water and high winds creates real hazards,” said Rob Beck, city personnel director. “It’s probably not a good idea to be on any of the beaches.”

Lake Coeur d’Alene is about 8 feet above it’s normal level this time of year, Schwartz said.

The high winds caused minor damage in Bonner County, knocking some trees over roads and into power lines, causing brief outages. The wind also froze rain and snow, making roads a sheet of ice. The slippery conditions sent Bonner County authorities scrambling to 16 car accidents Monday morning.

Lake Coeur d’Alene’s level was supposed to crest Monday and then start dropping, Schwartz said.

National Weather Service officials said today is supposed to be partly cloudy. Wednesday through Friday may bring snow and rain. Low temperatures are expected to be in the 20s and highs in the 30s or 40s.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color)

MEMO: Cut in Spokane edition

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Winda Benedetti Staff writer Staff writer Kevin Keating contributed to this report.

Cut in Spokane edition

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Winda Benedetti Staff writer Staff writer Kevin Keating contributed to this report.

Tags: weather