Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 41° Partly Cloudy
News >  Spokane

Damage estimates for windstorm weeks away

In this Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 photo, Matt Van Vleet, who lives on 18th Ave., east of Bernard, surveys the damage to his garage and two cars from a neighbor's tree. Another car not shown, a Subaru, was purchased only a week ago. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 photo, Matt Van Vleet, who lives on 18th Ave., east of Bernard, surveys the damage to his garage and two cars from a neighbor's tree. Another car not shown, a Subaru, was purchased only a week ago. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The first federal aid for damage for the Nov. 17 windstorm was approved this week for Washington, but even a rough estimate of the damage to the Spokane area may be weeks away. Local emergency management officials are compiling data from local residents and businesses, and utility crews continue to clean up downed lines.

State officials will file a formal request for disaster relief money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in mid-December after compiling reports from local agencies.

“It’s in the millions. I just don’t know how many millions,” Gerry Bozarth, Greater Spokane Emergency Management spokesman, said.

That agency is seeking information on business and homeowner losses from local residents and businesses on its website as it tries to determine whether Spokane County will reach a threshold of $1.677 million that is one requirement for seeking aid from FEMA. The state must also reach a threshold of $9.8 million. Federal rules say Spokane can include losses by public utilities like Inland Power and Light, but not those sustained by the region’s largest utility, Avista, which is owned by stockholders.

Avista spokeswoman Laurine Jue, said it was too early to estimate the costs of repairing damage from the worst storm in the company’s history, with some crews still are doing cleanup work, and customers still reporting downed lines. At the height of the outages, Avista had about 180,000 customers without power and over a 10-day stretch had 132 crews from six states and Canada in the field with 700 workers.

Jue said Avista will be “in cleanup mode through the rest of the week.”

The first federal aid for storm damage, $1 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation, was approved this week to help repair state and federal highways in Western Washington damaged by washouts and landslides. State transportation officials said there were no comparable reports of damage to roadways in the Spokane area, although they are compiling information on the costs of replacing many downed signs and damaged poles from near-hurricane force winds.

Transportation officials had asked for $5 million for the Western Washington repairs, a request that was supported by the state’s two U.S. senators and representatives from West Side districts.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said the U.S. Department of Transportation is continuing to assess need and could send more money in the future.

Insurance companies may soon have a tally of the number of claims they’ve received, but damage estimates will take longer, Kenton Brine, president of the Northwest Insurance Council, said. State Farm said it has more homeowners claims in Washington from the Nov. 17 windstorm than it did for all damages related to wind in 2014. As of last week, State Farm reported about 1,900 homeowners filed claims related to the windstorm, compared to 1,200 for all wind events in 2014.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.