July 22, 1997 in Nation/World

Storm Downs Trees, Knocks Out Power In Cda

Brian Coddington Robin Rivers Contri Staff writer
 

Heavy rains, high winds and large hail bulled through North Idaho during 20 minutes of chaos Monday evening, leaving a scene reminiscent of last winter’s ice storm.

The severe thunderstorm that hit at 5:20 p.m. sent water cascading down several of Coeur d’Alene’s main streets, including Northwest Boulevard.

Trees fell across houses. Branches ripped down power lines. Businesses went dark. Stoplights no longer directed traffic.

“I just can’t believe it,” said sixyear resident Daphne Ove, who was outside her Government Way home surveying storm damage with neighbors. “This is the craziest weather I’ve ever seen around here.”

An electronic sign outside a downtown bank told part of the story: at 3 p.m., the unofficial temperature was 98 degrees. By 6 p.m., it had plunged to 66 degrees.

Several smaller storms moved through the region about two hours after the first one ended. No injuries were reported, but firefighters and police raced from call to call.

“Lots of trees down, lots of wires down,” said a drained Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher about an hour after the first storm passed.

Late Monday, Washington Water Power Co. crews worked to restore power to 10,000 homes in the Coeur d’Alene area, said spokeswoman Debbie Simock.

“It’s been kind of one wave after another,” Simock said.

The National Weather Service received reports of wind gusts to 50 mph. In one area, a quarter-inch of rain fell in five minutes. Seven-tenths of an inch in 20 minutes was reported in another.

In Eastern Washington, lightning caused at least six forest fires in Asotin County, and authorities worried late Monday that homes near Clarkston could be threatened.

Elsewhere, a 1,000-acre brush fire sparked by lightning destroyed one home five miles west of Benton City and threatened 20 others, officials said. No one was injured, and no evacuations ordered.

A tornado warning was issued in Stevens County, but no sightings were confirmed.

“The storm looked pretty bad on the radar,” said Weather Service meteorologist Mark Strobin.

Severe thunderstorm warnings lasted well into the evening for Stevens, Pend Oreille, Ferry and Spokane counties.

The storm sent sunbathers from City Beach in Coeur d’Alene to Sanderson Beach in Hayden scurrying for cover.

Boats on Lake Coeur d’Alene motored for the shore, desperate to beat the rain and hail that pounded down behind them.

“We couldn’t figure out which way it was coming from until we saw the boats racing in,” said Todd Kleniow, who pulled into the parking lot at Independence Point just as the storm hit.

Kleniow and his wife, Karen, brought their two young daughters for an evening picnic and swim, but quickly retreated to duck the weather.

“We went (to the bathrooms) and everybody just kind of disappeared,” Kleniow said. “The ladies’ room was full.”

The Veradale, Wash., family waited out the storm under a park bathroom overhang. They returned to a lakeside picnic seat when the storm blew over as quickly as it began.

Ove’s Government Way rental house was one of the worst hit in her neighborhood. One tree fell on it; another pierced the roof of their detached garage, dragging with it power, cable and telephone lines.

“I was standing in the kitchen watching the storm when I saw this tree go down,” Ove said. “I said, ‘What the heck?”’

In the storm’s wake, yards up and down Government Way were littered with broken tree branches. Neighbors pitched in to drag debris that landed in the street onto the grassy median.

“It’s ice storm all over again,” one woman said.

Rhonda Sand stopped at the Government Way cemetery to check on her father’s grave, fearing a fallen tree had covered it. Wind sheared off several trees midway up their trunks and uprooted others.

“I was going to walk in there and then I heard (a tree) crackling,” Sand said.

The forecast calls for more consistent weather today, with mostly sunny skies and high temperatures in the 80s.

“No more fun and games like this,” meteorologist Strobin said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Brian Coddington Staff writer Staff writer Robin Rivers contributed to this report.


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