Winds Down Trees, Raise Havoc In Nw

MONDAY, FEB. 13, 1995

Seventeen-year-old Courtney Baker is lucky to be alive.

A 120-foot Ponderosa pine crashed into the upstairs bedroom of her south Spokane home Sunday morning, less than six feet from her bed.

“I was sleeping and it came down and I just got out,” said Baker, still shaken just minutes after the 10:50 a.m. accident.

As firefighters worked to secure downed power lines at the house at W703 20th, Baker sat on the curb across the street, shivering in the 20-degree cold.

She wiped tears from her eyes as she stared at what remained of her bedroom. Her stereo and “hard-core crust” music collection were crushed by the tree, but her clothes were spared.

“Most of my clothes were on the floor because I’m a typical teenage person.”

Some of the strongest gusts of the day, about 40 mph, were recorded about the time the tree fell, the National Weather Service said. The tree snapped several feet above the ground, where it appeared to be rotten about halfway through.

Fallen trees and power lines were reported Sunday throughout Eastern Washington and North Idaho, resulting in power outages affecting thousands of residences and businesses.

The wind caused other problems, as well.

The traffic light at Francis and Wall, for example, was turned by the wind and motorists weren’t sure what to do.

Another traffic hazard was created by a railroad crossing guard that was blown down across Airport Road.

Gusts also damaged one of the two butterfly sculptures in Riverfront Park.

And a small grass fire in Otis Orchards was whipped by the gusting winds before it was controlled by firefighters.

By far the most damage was reported to the house where Courtney Baker lives with her father, Bob, and their dog Pickle.

Bob Baker was in the shower in the main floor bathroom when he heard a loud crash.

At first, he said, he thought it was an earthquake.

Then, when the house stopped shaking, he thought maybe an airplane had hit the house.

He heard his daughter screaming, went upstairs and discovered the tree.

Across the street, Don Watson said he heard a crash, and saw the lights flicker.

“I looked outside and saw the rising dust,” Watson said.

“I ran across the street and yelled, and they yelled that they were OK. I ran around the back and they came downstairs.

“It was six feet from her bed. What a way to get woken up.”

The Bakers have rented the house for about a year and a half, ever since he retired from the Navy.

The owner of the house, who lives in Sagle, Idaho, was informed of the accident and told neighbors the house was insured.

And while the Bakers arranged for a place to spend the night, a steady stream of passers-by commented on the accident and the fact that no one was injured.

“There is a God,” said one astonished woman.


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