August 14, 2014 in Washington Voices

Damage from windstorms still challenges some homeowners

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Hired worker Quinten Christenson, 20, piles branches from a fallen tree near the corner of Barnes Road and Whitehouse Street on Aug. 8. Two powerful windstorms left homeowners with extensive damage to clean up.
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What to do: homeowners’ responsibility

 Property owners may contact Avista at (800) 227-9187 to ask for an evaluation of a tree that’s leaning heavily and within 10 feet of a power line.

 If any part of the mast – the short pole on the roof to which power lines are sometimes attached – is damaged by a storm or yanked loose by a still attached power line, then it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to have the mast repaired by an electrician before the house can be put back on the power grid.

 To see an illustration of what a homeowner is responsible for, visit and click on “safety.”

 The city’s urban forester recommends that property owners hire a tree service that is licensed, bonded, insured and employs ISA Certified Arborists to help with storm cleanup.

 For a list of recommended tree trimming companies compiled by the city, go to and click on “Street Tree Permits.”

Most of the Spokane area was just about done cleaning up after the last storm when the National Weather Service issued a new thunderstorm warning Tuesday morning.

The previous storm tracked through north Spokane downing trees and power lines, leaving some people without power for days.

Once it blew over, some homeowners were left worried about “leaners” – trees that didn’t quite fall over, but sure looked like they could.

“It’s my understanding that even if a tree leans a lot it may not fall,” said Avista spokeswoman Debbie Simock, adding that the back-to-back storms left almost no tree damage south of I-90.

“We are now inspecting 425 miles of power lines following the path of the storms – from Colville, through north Spokane and up to Sandpoint,” Simock said, “looking for trees that are an imminent risk of falling on power lines.”

Julie Happy, director of communications for the city’s engineering department, said the many street construction projects were not affected by the storms.

“Projects are able to continue on schedule,” Happy said.

The Water and Sewer Department’s Marlene Feist said the storms didn’t cause lasting damage to water or sewer infrastructure, except for a temporary power loss that affected a water booster station in the Five Mile area.

Above-ground power lines are the most vulnerable infrastructure when a storm hits, and Simock said Avista will come out and do tree evaluations if property owners are worried a tree is close to tumbling.

“Customers who have trees within 10 feet of a power line can call our vegetation management program. We will come out for an assessment of that tree,” Simock said. “If necessary, we will work with the customer to possibly remove the tree.”

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