Wind and rain storm pummels local communities

Published on Thu, Dec 20, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Wind and rain storm pummels local communities

By Meg Olson

Winds and heavy rain pummeled Blaine and Birch Bay over the weekend, leaving downed power lines and crumbling streets in their wake. National weather service forecasters are predicting a break in the parade of storms later this week, but are warning that rain and wind may be the hallmarks of this winter.

Blaine public works crews started scrambling at 4 p.m. on December 13 as days of sustained rain began to overwhelm the sewer lift station on Marine Drive. “The level in the manholes on Marine Drive started surcharging so they fired up the diesel pump and started filling bladders,” said city public works director Grant Stewart. Working through the night, crews pumped 260,000 gallons of sewage into offline storage, averting a sewer overflow. Stewart said the lift station was not performing at capacity and a specialist has been called in to repair it.

As rain subsided, the wind picked up from the northwest. Power outages peppered the area and waves started to chew into Marine Drive. Blaine harbormaster Pam Taft said winds were gusting to 80 miles per hour at times over the weekend, with the worst sustained winds on Friday.

“The wind was coming from an unusual direction so we had the entire Georgia Strait hitting Marine Drive with waves and wind,” Stewart said. “That entire length of Marine Drive is demolished.” Erosion of the roadway exposed utility conduits carrying water and electricity to Marine Drive businesses and under the harbor to west Blaine which crews scrambled to keep buried. Stewart said the city spent several thousand dollars on 700 tons of gravel and rock to stabilize the roadway and county jail alternative program crews spent the day sandbagging.

“That’s not going to fix it,” Stewart said. ‘It’s just a foundation for what we’ll ultimately need to put there – armor protection. It’ll be a big capital project.”

There was also erosion damage to Birch Bay Drive but no one was available from county public works to comment on plans for repairs.

Blaine and Birch Bay fared better than many areas in the county, with widespread power outages lasting only a few hours. “We didn’t have a lot of people out of power but there was a lot of damage to the system,” said Kathy Larsen of Puget Sound Energy. “It seems we would make repairs and another gust would cause more problems.” She estimated 30 customers in Birch Bay were without power for part of Friday.

In Blaine, Stewart said they also had a series of problems that kept lights flickering. Power was out in west Blaine twice for several hours and south Blaine went out in early afternoon, from causes ranging from branches on power lines to saltwater spray coating the lines and grounding out the system. The worst damage was on D Street where a fallen tree cut power to 10 customers and in the watershed where toppling trees interupted power for city pumps. “We had a long day,” Stewart said.

At BP Cherry Point refinery high winds parted mooring lines on two vessels, damaging three loading arms. Tugs were brought in to assist and no oil was spilled.

The national weather service is predicting more wintry weather on the way. Without an El Nino or a La Nina weather pattern established this year, the Pacific Northwest can expect a lot of unpredictable weather and heavy rains are expected on the coast. On the bright side, the three year drought appears to be over..

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