September 16, 2013

Overnight wind storm topples massive South Hill pines

From staff reports
 

During Sunday night’s storm, neighbors heard a “big crack and a ‘woosh’ noise,” said neighbor Barbara Filo. They found two giant pine trees and a locust had fallen and the locust crushed a neighbor’s car on South Adams Street between 21st and 22nd avenues. (SR Photo: Jesse Tinsley)

The Filos were enjoying a quiet Sunday evening, Barbara in the kitchen and Bob in front of the TV flipping between the Miss America pageant and the Seahawks game, when the pine fell.

“We heard a crack, and then a swoosh, just a swoosh,” Barbara Filo said Monday morning, punctuating the sentence with sweeps of her arms near a massive Ponderosa pine that came within inches of crashing through the first-story windows of her South Hill home of 39 years.

Though few raindrops fell during Sunday night’s storms that swept through Eastern and Central Washington, howling winds kicked up choking dust in downtown Spokane and downed power lines as far west as Othello, where classes were canceled Monday. The gusts caused three trees to tumble like dominos in the Filos’ yard along South Adams Street near High Drive, crushing one of their neighbors’ four-door Subaru sedan.

The Filos didn’t know the extent of the damage until after the city had arrived and placed cones on either side of the decades-old pine, now lying across Adams and stretching within inches of a window opening on their front lawn. The trunk looked as though the tree had been snapped like a toothpick, and the campfire smell of pine dwelled in the front yard.

“(Bob) came outside, and he said, ‘Barbara, you better come look at this!” Barbara Filo said.

A locust tree that had provided the wood-shingled Filo residence with shade from the heat of the day appeared to be the car-smashing culprit. Chris Mount, the owner of the smashed Subaru, bummed a ride from his girlfriend to work Monday morning. He was standing outside as the second tree fell Sunday night.

“I saw the tree halfway falling, then I ran to the back of the house and heard a big boom,” Mount said. The vehicle is insured and he’s already filed a claim, he said.

Mount’s roommate, Seth Laughlin, snapped photos of the damage Monday morning from his second-story deck as neighbors milled about.

“The wind was roaring, and there was a big old explosion,” Laughlin said.

The chain reaction set off just after 9 p.m. Sunday, according to both Laughlin and the Filos. Airway Heights reported wind gusts topping out at 60 mph around the time the pine fell, according to figures from the National Weather Service. Visibility in downtown Spokane was reduced to less than a quarter mile, thanks to dust picked up by the high winds.

Barbara Filo said at its peak, the storm clouded the front-stoop view of High Drive about 100 feet away.

Avista Utilities reported Monday morning more than 3,000 customers were without power, the majority of reported disruptions occurring in Othello near the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. Classes at Moses Lake and Othello school districts were canceled Monday because of the outages, according to media reports.

Cooling is expected throughout the region this week after blazing conditions over the past several days. Highs throughout the week are expected to flutter in the 70s, with lows reaching the lower 40s. Tuesday brings a 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms into the overnight hours in Spokane, then partly to mostly sunny skies are expected throughout the rest of the week.

The Filos lack a chainsaw and hope the city will arrive to clear the road quickly. Barbara Filo said she also hoped the city would plant some replacement trees, as the family enjoyed the shade and the view over the bluffs framed by the fallen pines. Mostly, she’s happy no one was hurt.

“It’s a small miracle,” she said.


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