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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Long, arduous cleanup expected in Spokane parks after monster windstorm

Jan. 14, 2021 Updated Thu., Jan. 14, 2021 at 8:46 p.m.

Fallen pine trees hit the Comstock Park playground after high winds roared through the area Wednesday in Spokane.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Fallen pine trees hit the Comstock Park playground after high winds roared through the area Wednesday in Spokane. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

After Wednesday’s winds finally subsided, passers-by couldn’t help but gawk at the arboreal devastation in Comstock Park.

Many of the park’s massive conifer trees were ripped from rain-softened soil and tossed to the ground as if they were little more than a toothpick. Eager children climbed atop what had, just a day earlier, stood dozens of feet tall.

On Thursday, the parks department announced that Comstock Park would be temporarily closed, allowing crews to safely clear the wreckage.

In a press release, the department warned that while winds have subsided, dangerous conditions persist, and more trees or branches could come down.

“We ask the community to please avoid Comstock, as well as other parks and natural areas with tree damage, for their safety and the safety of Park crews completing this important work,” said Garrett Jones, director of Parks & Recreation for the City of Spokane, in a statement.

As of Thursday, crews were working first to address 10 leaning, potentially hazardous trees. Next, workers will look to clear any rights of way or pedestrian routes. An estimated 133 additional trees had already fallen in the city’s parks.

“It will likely take several weeks to clear all debris, but those hazards are our focus right now. We are also doing an assessment of damage to amenities like park benches, fences, tennis courts, playgrounds, etc.,” Spokane Parks spokesperson Fianna Dickson said.

Urban Forestry and Park Operations crews were leading the cleanup effort, but the city could call for outside help.

It will likely be about a week before Spokane Parks can provide an update on the Expo Butterfly, the iconic, 50-foot metal-and-fabric structure torn from its base in Wednesday’s storm, according to Dickson.

The butterfly, the last remaining one of several used as landmarks at Expo ’74, was restored and reinstalled at Riverfront Park’s north entrance in 2019.

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