The city of Kamiah declared a disaster after a windstorm tore through town Tuesday afternoon, toppling limbs and trees across roads and homes, turning over trailers, and ripping shingles off roofs.
The gusts were so focused they tore the Hill and 13th street sign from its post.
“Things were flying around like missiles,” reported Laura Parrish of Bearverslide. She wondered if the storm could have included a tornado, saying the wind that struck her home sounded like a loud roar. “It was like an engine that was running when the second burst came through,” she said. It snapped off the top of a tall healthy spruce tree and broke the power cable to her husband’s shop.
Like many other people around the valley and even north to Woodland, the Parrishes were still waiting for power to be restored Wednesday morning after the storm knocked it out at about 5 p.m. Tuesday evening. Crews were scrambling to make repairs and hoped to get power restored by late morning.
The outage affected about 1,500 Idaho County Light & Power customers, according to ICL&P Manager Max Beach. “First thing was Avista had a transmission go down. That took out Kooskia and Kamiah areas. Then it took out our Kamiah area,” said Beach.
He said crews worked through the night to restore power and as of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday there were about 850 customers still without power.
He said crews were dealing with a variety of issues from broken poles to limbs on lines to limbs going through lines.
In certain areas he said ICL&P has started implementing one shot lines which can help prevent fires. If a sensor detects a fault in the line it will automatically shut off the line.
Avista Utilities also reported multiple outages throughout town affecting several hundred customers. The power outages affected Kooskia and residents along the Selway River, however the wind damage appears to be localized to Kamiah.
According to the Idaho County Sheriff’s Department, damages were not reported at Kooskia.
Wind gusts were estimated at 60 mph or higher, according to Dave Noble with the National Weather Service in Missoula, Mont. He said it was a macroburst that hit Kamiah. He said that the way the canyons are shaped, like Lawyer and Seven Mile canyons, they act like funnels similar to a garden hose and increase the pressure in windstorms making for stronger gales.
The extent of damage prompted Kamiah officials to declare a disaster at about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday night. The declaration allows the city to open its budget to move funds to assist in clean up that they would not normally be able to do. “It’s possible they may qualify for state assistance,” said Lewis County Emergency Management Coordinator Bob West.
The Lewis County Commissioners signed a Declaration of Local Emergency in support of the city of Kamiah and surrounding areas of Lewis County.
“We lost a lot of trees,” noted West. To the best of his knowledge no one sustained injuries in the storm. He noted that the forecast was calling for another wind event later Wednesday. “Pray we don’t have any more,” he said.
Public works employees worked into the dark hours clearing debris from roads. So did a lot of others as neighbors immediately set about cleaning up a monster mess and Good Samaritans with chainsaws sawed through road-blocking limbs and piled them along the curb or ditch.
City crews busily got after it early Wednesday using a loader and dump truck to gather limbs and debris from city thoroughfares.
While traversing city streets it quickly became apparent that virtually every quarter of town had experienced some level of damage, be it shingles yanked from rooftops, travel trailers tipped over, a fence mushed near the Kamiah football field, even the peacefulness of Riverfront Park was upended when a massive sycamore tree toppled next to a picnic table.
Emergency responders were kept busy into the wee hours. “The Kamiah Marshal’s Office, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Kamiah Fire Department, Kamiah EMS and city crew worked for several hours clearing debris from roads to make them passable and to block areas with powerlines down for safety and to report back to the power company so they would know where damaged lines were,” said Chief Kamiah Marshal Kirt Gaston. “We also checked residents known to have medical issues to see if they had needed supplies.”
According to City Deputy Clerk Stephanie Gaston, the police patrolled town until 2-3 a.m. to make sure businesses were secure.