This year, we took granddaughter Annie to lunch in LaConner to celebrate her August 28 birthday. The weather was warm, with clouds flying overhead and bursts of wind flinging leaves across the road, but nothing unusual for a late summer day.
Then the wind picked up. We sat at our table in the Calico Cupboard, watching passing tourists laughing and trying to keep their streaming hair out of their eyes. On the way back to Mt. Vernon, the wind buffeted the car. It yanked leaves and branches from the trees. They pelted us as we pushed through the debris. We dropped Annie at her home and left her dragging fallen branches out of her driveway. A few blocks later traffic stopped. A workman told us a tree was down, blocking the bridge that led into town. So back we went the way we’d come. We dodged many trees that had fallen, mostly deciduous maples, cottonwoods, and alders which still held their heavy canopies of leaves.
|I wasn’t quick enough to catch any of the larger branches we saw falling.|
|A windbreak doing its job for a Skagit Valley farm|
|With each gust, the air darkened with flying leaves.|
|A broken table seemed to be our only damage from the wind.|
After our power was restored the next morning, we noticed that my favorite tree in the yard, a native American cranberry bush tree with multiple slender trunks, had spread out all around, with branches nearly touching the ground. Then we saw that the wind yanking on its heavy canopy had lifted the roots and weakened their support for the trunks. Hank cut the leaning parts off, in hopes that what’s left will stay upright.
|The American cranberry bush tree in bloom, several years ago.|
We were fortunate. Throughout the Salish Sea region and further south and north, wind speeds equalled some of the stronger storms Western Washington typically receives in the late fall and winter. Gusts in the Seattle-Tacoma area reached 40-50 mph, while gusts to 60-70 mph were common in the North Sound and along the coast.
Because of the four-month drought we’d experienced, leaving trees stressed and weakened, and because trees were still fully leafed out, many that ordinarily could have weathered the storm went down, snapping utility poles and taking out power to many thousands of people. Some were without electricity for nearly a week. A number of homes were damaged by falling trees, and two deaths were reported.
For those who didn’t suffer losses, our unusual summer storm brought concerns, and also excitement such as Annie’s parents experienced. While we celebrated her birthday, they had taken the train to Vancouver, hoping to visit world-famous Stanley Park. Falling trees closed the park, and when they attempted to return the next day, Amtrak, with no electricity, had to stop frequently so crewman could man the switches by hand.