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Utilities make progress restoring North Idaho power

Becky Kramer And Scott Maben Staff writers

Utility crews restored power to thousands of North Idaho customers Thursday after the widespread damage from Tuesday’s powerful wind storm knocked out power throughout the Panhandle.

About 20,800 homes and businesses remained without power Thursday evening.

Avista has fewer than 9,500 customers still without service in the Idaho Panhandle. That includes 7,856 in Kootenai County, 654 in Bonner County, 640 in Shoshone County and 311 in Benewah County.

Kootenai Electric Cooperative reported that 6,879 customers remained without service Thursday afternoon. The outages extend from Spirit Lake and Bayview south to Plummer.

The co-op estimates most members north of Interstate 90 would have power restored by the weekend.

Northern Lights, Inc., which serves the Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry areas and some parts of northwestern Montana, had 4,457 customers still without power Thursday afternoon.

Miners stuck by power outage

The night shift at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho, was stuck underground when the mine lost power during Tuesday’s windstorm.

About 30 miners and other workers were affected by the power outage, said Luke Russell, a vice president at Hecla Mining Co., owner of the underground silver mine.

The employees waited at their workstations until the electricity came back on around 1 a.m. and the mine’s hoist was operational again.

In the event of an extended power outage, a generator would have been used to run the hoist, Russell said.

The Lucky Friday Mine was to remain closed through the Thursday day shift, Russell said. The company was waiting for assurance from Avista Utilities of a reliable power supply, he said. Employees will be paid for the lost work time.

Boats sink at Silver Beach

At the Silver Beach Marina on Lake Coeur d’Alene, one boat owner recounted how the wind and waves tossed the boats around.

Frank, who didn’t want to give his last name, arrived at the marina around 6 p.m. Thursday, hoping to prevent the storm from damaging his 35-foot cabin cruiser.

His friend arrived shortly afterward. Waves were crashing over the docks. One of the anchors for an outer dock had shifted, allowing boats to bash into each other, he said. Two boats sank, but his cabin cruiser was able to ride out the storm.

Historic tree damages historic home

The city of Coeur d’Alene lost part of its horticultural heritage when a historic tree fell on a historic home.

A hybrid mountain ash listed in Idaho’s Big Tree registry was one of three trees that crashed into the Jewett House at Sanders Beach. The registry is part of a national program to locate and recognize the largest individual tree of each species in the state.

“We lost the whole front porch, and there’s damage to the roof line,” said Steve Anthony, the city’s parks and recreation director. “We won’t know the extent of the damage until we can get the cleanup done.”

The three-story house at Sanders Beach was built in 1917 by one of Idaho’s early timber families. The house was later donated to the city by Potlatch Corp.

One of the home’s early residents probably planted the mountain ash, Anthony said. The tree was nominated for the state registry in 1991 by Karen Haskew, the city’s former urban forester. According to the registry, the mountain ash was 34 feet tall.

Coeur d’Alene parks not hard hit

Coeur d’Alene city parks lost about 20 trees in Tuesday’s wild winds – not that many, considering the thousands that fell across the region.

“It could have been much more significant,” city parks Superintendent Bill Greenwood said Thursday.

Three big ones – a Douglas fir, a spruce and a Ponderosa pine – came down in City Park near downtown.

Three large Ponderosas also came down in the city’s Forest Cemetery, and two more damaged trees will be removed there, Greenwood said.

Blue spruce and plum trees seemed especially prone to blowing over, he said. “Those blue spruce, they just don’t have a good root on them and they’ll pull right over.”

City crews have removed over 150 damaged trees this week.

Native trees that haven’t had arbor care were more likely to break at the top, Greenwood said.

“Trees that we buy and nurture and take care of are more inclined not to snap off like that,” he said.

Low demand for emergency shelter

By late Thursday afternoon, the Red Cross shelter at Coeur d’Alene Bible Church had no takers.

However, “we’re thinking that as the evening gets cooler, we’ll see some people,” volunteer Tina Piaskowski said.

The shelter in the church’s gym can house up to 75 people. It’s also serving dinner for people who can cope without electricity but want a chance to enjoy a hot meal, Piaskowski said.

Kootenai Humane Society in Hayden was ready to provide housing for pets of people seeking shelter from the Red Cross.

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