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Nature’s Big Blowout Leaves Area Hung Over

Tue., July 11, 1995

Linda Hill knows what it’s like to survive a tornado.

When she lived in Oklahoma, three twisters battered her home one summer.

Hill, who now lives in Rathdrum, never expected to clean up after such high winds in North Idaho. But on Monday, she cleaned up what was left of her yard following a storm whose damage mirrored that of the tornadoes she’s grown accustomed to back home.

Tornadoes were reported near Rathdrum, Athol, Idaho, and Garfield, Wash. - although the National Weather Service has not confirmed they were actual twisters, said meteorologist Ken Holmes.

The circling winds that whipped through Kootenai County on Sunday chopped down eight of her trees, draping three over the roof of her Wright Street house. The blast ripped off the heavy top of her hot tub and pitched it into the street.

“You can’t fight Mother Nature,” Hill said, standing amid piles of broken tree limbs and splintered wood Monday. “Mother Nature can destroy - snap - just like that.”

By Monday morning the wood chips from the storm had settled and the cleaning had begun.

Hill spent her morning fishing chunks of bark out of her hot tub while residents throughout the Inland Northwest cleared away shredded stumps and pulled branches from their roofs.

Several places in Eastern Washington also were hit hard, particularly the Palouse town of Garfield.

“Never in my life have I seen a storm like this, not even in Minnesota,” said 90-year-old Don Johnson, a Midwest native who has lived in Garfield since 1927.

The storm blew the roof off the State National Bank of Garfield, where Johnson formerly was a board member and president.

In his own yard, he found downed trees after the storm. A couple other Garfield residents reported trees had fallen through their roofs.

In the Spokane Valley, JoAnn Schneidmiller was on a shopping trip Sunday when storm water crashed through her basement windows, dumping 4,000 gallons of water into her home.

Monday, she needed professionals to help clean up the mess. That included a septic company whose trucks sucked out the water, cleaners to sanitize her basement carpets and even a county commissioner to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Other Spokane County residents also complained of flooding as a result of the summer rainstorms, County Commissioner Steve Hasson said. He visited Schneidmiller’s home at her request.

The house, at the end of a cul-desac, was flooded four years ago by another summer storm. Schneidmiller said she wants the county to improve its storm drains so the flooding doesn’t happen again.

As she cleaned out her house, she placed her basement furnishings in the back yard.

“It’s like a flea market in my back yard,” she said. “Something must be done.”

By Monday afternoon, nearly all Washington Water Power customers in Eastern Washington had regained power.

Although the city of Rathdrum removed the state of emergency it had declared earlier, residents still are asked to conserve water because the city’s reservoir was nearly drained empty when a pump lost power. With power restored, the reservoir now is being refilled.

The thunderstorm swept through North Idaho and Eastern Washington starting about 3:40 p.m. Sunday. With it came pounding hail, sheets of rain and wind gusts up to 65 mph, Holmes said.

The Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. rolling mill at Trentwood lost power for about an hour. Workers spent the night and much of Monday morning trying to restart machinery in the vast Spokane Valley plant.

Tornado or not, hundreds of trees were ripped from the ground or shredded throughout Kootenai County. A dozen or so power poles reclined across Meyer Road, the power lines drooping lazily.

Linemen from WWP and Kootenai Electric Cooperative worked around the clock to restore services to the more than 104,000 people who lost power.

The damage done to Kootenai Electric lines - in terms of downed lines and power outages - was worse than that of the firestorm that ravaged the area in 1991, said Larry Bryant, marketing director.

Kootenai Electric expected to restore power to all but about 500 customers by Monday night. The rest of the power should be on by this afternoon, Bryant said. WWP officials expected to restore power to the remaining 1,500 North Idaho customers without it by late Monday night.

A GTE Northwest spokesman said all telephone service should be restored by the end of today.

Although there is a chance of a thunderstorm today, the weather service doesn’t expect it to be as severe.

The harsh weather is expected to pass through southeastern Idaho and Montana. Warmer, dryer weather is expected for Eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle later this week, he said.

Holmes said fragmented clouds and rain shafts are often confused with tornadoes. But he said if a tornado does appear in this area, it usually arrives in the type of weather seen Sunday.

Hill came to North Idaho to stay with her son for the summer - hoping to miss Oklahoma’s tornado season. Things didn’t quite work out as planned.

Trees, some more than 100 feet tall and 100 years old, had crashed to the ground. Landscaping she had worked on for years was ripped to shreds.

“It’s upsetting,” she said wiping away a few tears with an embarrassed smile. “You work so hard to make something pretty.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: Changed from the Idaho edition

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Winda Benedetti Staff writer Staff writers Gita Sitaramiah and Bert Caldwell contributed to this report.

Changed from the Idaho edition

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Winda Benedetti Staff writer Staff writers Gita Sitaramiah and Bert Caldwell contributed to this report.


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