Lessons learned from Windstorm 2015

Lessons learned from Windstorm 2015

SPOKANE, Wash. - In those dark, cold days after Windstorm 2015, a lot of us learned just how much we rely on electricity for our daily routines.

At first, it seemed like a rustic, romantic adventure: keeping warm by the fire, cooking on camp stoves. But it didn't take long for the gravity of Windstorm 2015's damage to set in.

"We've already had a fire today in the county that looks like the result of a candle," Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams said the day after last year's windstorm.

While emergency officials urged us to safely live without electricity, utilities struggled to bring the power back on. There were very few easy fixes.

"Those hurricane force winds came in and devastated our transmission system," Scott Morris, Avista Corp, said in the days following that historic storm.

Before power was restored, Avista replaced 482 poles, 16 miles of wire and 717 cross arms. A lot of us suffered damage to our homes as well.

"I was in the kitchen and I heard a loud crash and I peeked out the front door and all I could see are evergreen branches," Carol Brabank, a homeowner, said.

Windstorm 2015 made us much more aware of the health of our trees. They need to be inspected for weak spots and in some cases, thinned out to reduce the amount of sail pines and firs.

"Well, right now we're protecting her home by cleaning out all the debris and the dead," Cameron Coy, Tall Tree Service, said. "That way, when the big winds do come, it doesn't put too much flex in the trees and helps the wind blow through it."

You can still find trees damaged by last November's storm. Straight line winds in excess of 60 mph tore dozens of shingles off homes. Even one year later, some roofs are just now getting repaired.

"We're still doing roofs from that wind damage," Jesse Garner, Alpine Construction, said on the storm's anniversary. "I mean, we are barely doing any roofs that don't have wind damage and we're even going into next year, still doing roofs with wind damage."

Since that windstorm, Avista developed a new computer program to help the utility order replacement supplies. For example, if you have 10,000 homes without power, the program can tell Avista how many poles and transformers the utility will need to have on hand to complete the repairs.