After a night of wicked wind and freezing temperatures, residents around the Inland Northwest awoke to a sunny morning, a day of respite to survey the damage and prepare for another cold night with, for many, no heat.
It was easy to spot a downed tree or damaged home, as neighbors gathered around to gawk, trade stories and offer any help they could.
On the South Hill
Luis Guzman and Jeff Sundquist told neighbors how a towering ponderosa pine came to rest against their small, brick rental home near the corner of 28th Avenue and South Lincoln Street.
“The wind was just picking up,” said Guzman, 28. “Our dog was freaking out and we were about to give him Benadryl. Then, it sounded like a big explosion.”
Guzman looked at the clock. It was 4:16 p.m., still hours before the winds would abate. They would stay the night in the house, without power but thankful for a sturdy brick home.
Four houses to the east, another tall conifer barely missed Chad Cook’s house, but crashed into two of his neighbors’ homes.
“Right before it came down, I was telling my girlfriend, ‘We’ll be fine,’ ” said Cook, 31, with a laugh.
Like Cook, some people took in the havoc with good humor, but the damage left behind was far from laughable.
Ponderosa pines littered streets across the South Hill, forcing commuters to navigate around a maze of downed trees and branches.
At 20th Avenue and Adams Street, Ryan Butler resorted to cutting his way out of his house with an electric saw. He had been in the basement when a tree smashed to the ground around 6:40 p.m., shattering a glass door at the front of his house and ringing his porch with branches.
“It sounded like a freight train or something,” Butler said. “It was wild.”
Another massive tree pulled up chunks of pavement and shattered a street light one block south along the newly rebuilt High Drive.
The storm left most residents on the upper South Hill without power.
Grocery stores along 29th Avenue were closed and long lines built up at some major intersections.
Dave Smith stood across the street from his house on the corner of Cook Street and Thurston Avenue, surveying the damage caused by four fallen trees as a crew from Atlas Tree Service fed branches into a wood chipper.
“We’ve got one in the house, one in the garage, one in the backyard and one on the neighbors,” he said.
Smith’s first tree hit the house at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. He called his friend who owns the tree company soon after.
Trees kept falling around the house until about 7 p.m., but Smith stayed inside, reasoning it was safer than wandering around outside.
Alison Scott looked warily to the tall trees surrounding her home just east of Bernard Street near 29th Avenue. As the winds picked up, she decided to find refuge with her neighbor.
They were discussing which of their neighborhood’s trees would be the first to go, when the one in her front yard took the lead.
“We felt this vibration. No big boom or anything,” she said. “It just kind of laid out. It’s so massive.”
The tree missed homes and cars, but it blocked the road and a few driveways.
Not far from there, a tan Honda sedan sat in the road in the 1000 block of East 38th Avenue with a pine branch through the windshield between the driver and passenger seat. Jennifer Caro, who lives on the street, said the first tree fell on the car Tuesday afternoon as a man was driving through. He walked away unharmed.
“God must be on that guy’s side,” she said.
Neighbors were gathered in the street clearing branches away and marveling at the shattered windshield. Caro said it was a long night listening to the wind blow trees down, but she got lucky.
“We basically had a hurricane come through,” she said.
Near the corner of 29th Avenue and South Regal Street Margie, Lasiter checked on her upstairs neighbor’s apartment.
“I’m just glad she wasn’t here,” Lasiter said.
Her neighbor is in the hospital and asked Lasiter to check on her property. Daylight was visible through the holes in the ceiling and chunks of drywall and insulation lay scattered across the room.
The tree that came crashing down on the apartment’s roof ripped out a large section of sidewalk before it caved in a part of the street-side unit.
“It sounded like a bomb went off,” Lasiter said. “I’ve been sweating that pine tree out ever since I lived here.”
Nearby, a car lay crushed underneath another tree. According to Heath Leverette, the maintenance supervisor for the apartment complex, a woman was in the vehicle when the tree fell. She escaped uninjured.
In North Spokane
Falling pine trees littered the Shadle Park neighborhood and power outages stretched from West Central to the Garland District.
Gary Reid worked a small chain saw to cut through a towering pine that had crashed through a fence on Dalton Avenue between Cochran and Alberta streets.
“This tree survived through the ice storm of 1996, and the winds last year,” Reid said, taking a breather while his son, Ian, collected smaller branches and removed them from the side street. “This one took it down.”
Ian Reid, who had the day off from school, said he didn’t hear the tree fall. It wound up in a neighbor’s front yard, and no one was injured.
The Reids were one of the lucky few in the neighborhood to keep their power. The houses across the street were dark.
A few blocks north, a half-dozen volunteers took to a pair of pines that had tumbled across the intersection of Upton Avenue and Milton Street.
“We thought this other one was going to come down,” said Katherine Murray, motioning to a tree that remained standing. She lives at the corner and had fled her home by the time a different tree toppled and smashed a fence belonging to Lorretta McKay across the street.
Murray left her home when a neighbor’s pine fell around 4 p.m., she said. That tree’s roots ripped up a water main, and Murray was drinking from a bottle of water.
“As much as we had happen, no one got hurt,” Murray said.
Murray works at Spokane Falls Community College, and she was surprised to learn Wednesday morning that the school had not canceled classes, one of the few in the region that remained open after the devastating windstorm.
The traffic light in front of the college on Fort George Wright Drive was not working Wednesday morning. But students filled the parking lot and the union on the middle of campus in between classes.
Many questioned the college’s decision to open.
“Just because I got here, not everyone can,” said Madison Friesen, a nursing student. She left her job on the South Hill late Tuesday and drove up Division Street to her home on the North Side, in spite of several traffic lights not working, she said.
Matthew Schaffer, a global politics major, agreed, questioning why schools like Gonzaga University and Eastern Washington canceled classes while Spokane Falls remained open.
“It was a hazard for us, having to dodge downed trees and power lines,” he said.
Several other students mentioned tardiness or missing classes entirely due to Spokane Transit Authority buses being delayed by detours around storm damage.
Businesses in the Garland District were shuttered and dark Wednesday morning.
Jerome Hood was in front of his home near Alameda Boulevard and Crown Wednesday morning cutting up a tree that missed his house by inches.
“If it had to come down, it did it in the right time and the right place,” he said.
On Tuesday night Hood parked his truck in his driveway under a portable carport, not under the tree where he usually parked it. The tree landed squarely on the truck, but the smashed carport absorbed the brunt of the blow.
“If it had been over there where I usually keep it, it would have been crunched,” Hood said.
A telephone pole in front of his house came crashing down on his neighbor’s garage. It’s the same pole that replaced another that blew down in the last big wind storm.
Highway to Mt. Spokane blocked
The Washington State Patrol closed down state Highway 206 to Mount Spokane on Tuesday night due to numerous fallen trees. By Wednesday morning the trees had been cut through and the road reopened, leaving little sign of the storm’s passing except for blown down signs.
Fast food restaurants and grocery stores with power were inundated with long lines of customers Wednesday, but anyone looking for bagged ice was out of luck. The Northpoint Wal-Mart was bustling Wednesday morning when it lost power and began running on emergency power as employees rushed to check out shoppers while they could.
The customers, however, weren’t fazed. They continued shopping, plucking items from dark refrigerated displays to put in their carts.
Others crammed into a Starbucks looking for coffee, food and power. Most were charging laptops and cellphones. However, one man plugged his electric wheelchair into an outlet.
Near Saint George’s School, Amy Morrison, her four children and Morrison’s grandparents cleared debris from their yard.
Three trees crashed into their house, and a fourth destroyed a shed. The family spent the night huddled in the basement eating taquitos and corn by flashlight. None of the neighboring houses were touched.
“If houses have to be fixed it might as well be one house,” she said. “I’m grateful it wasn’t worse.”
Several blocks away Monique Kelley said the storm brought up traumatic memories.
“I went through Hurricane Andrew and this was pretty comparable,” she said. “It was giving me anxiety, honestly it was.”
Two trees fell on her property. Both missed her home, one by mere inches.
“In the back you just heard this big boom,” she said. “It’s literally that close to our back door.”
Kelley said her neighbors were checking in on her, bringing her treats and raking her yard.
“Everybody has been really awesome,” she said.
Roof torn off Hayden horse barn
The powerful winds peeled off the metal roof of one whole side of a large horse arena and stables in Hayden.
It produced an “unnatural sound,” said owner Joy Richards, who lives next door. “The roof was starting to fall as I was walking over.”
Big chunks of crumbled roof and a cupola landed on the east side of the barn. The six horses kept there were outside but on the west side, Richards said.
“I’m sort of in disbelief as it’s rolling off,” she said.
Richards led the sweaty, stressed horses into their stalls and locked them inside to protect them from any other flying debris. Wednesday morning, small pieces of white insulation covered the ground like snow.
She and her husband John Richards, the former chairman of Potlatch Corp., built the wooden barn eight years ago. The monitor-style building is about 16,000 square feet and includes a dressage arena.
“We’re grateful there was not more damage, and no one was injured,” Joy Richards said. “We’ve got a huge job ahead of us.”
Staff writers Rachel Alexander, Nicholas Deshais, Nina Culver, Eli Francovich, Kip Hill and Scott Maben contributed to this report.
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