July 23, 2012 in City, Outdoors, Region

More details expected in forest death

By The Spokesman-Review
Tina Wynecoop photo

High winds on Friday (July 20, 2012) snapped off the tops of ponderosa pines along State Highway 21 between Keller and Republic. Ferry County PUD officials said Monday that virtually every powerline span in that 40-mile stretch of road was damaged.
(Full-size photo)

More information will be released later today about a death on the Colville National Forest during Friday afternoon’s thunderstorms, which produced high-intensity winds, according to the Ferry County Sheriff’s Department.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service officials are advising against travel on the Republic Ranger District, where about 60 percent of the roads on the 221,000-acre district were initially blocked by trees. The storm toppled trees and partially uprooted others, blocking trails and roadways and creating dangerous situations with leaning trees. About one-third of the roads remain blocked this afternoon.

Reconnaissance flights were underway to better assess the extent of the blown downs and determine if any hikers or horseback riders got trapped during the storm, said Franklin Pemberton, a forest spokesman. Ferry County’s search and rescue team is also involved in the effort.

The winds were generated by the same thunderstorms that produced rain and hail across other parts of the region, said John Livingston, the National Weather Service’s meteorologist in charge.

Wind gusts peaked at 66 mph; winds in excess of 50 mph also were recorded at Nespelem and Spring Canyon on Lake Roosevelt.

“It was a very unusual event,” Livingston said.

Most of the damage occurred during the first 10 minutes of the afternoon storm.

“It was horrendous, chaotic,” said Christine Bonney, the Republic Police Department’s administrative assistant. “There were fields of trees lying flat, like the wind ironed them down.”

The city received multiple reports of trees falling on vehicles and crashing through homes, including a tree that slammed through the porch roof at Bonney’s house. The damage was sporadic, taking some trees but leaving others.

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