Damage widespread after Sunday storm

Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:17:58 AM PST   Updated On: Sep 16 2013 06:20:52 PM PDT
Tree snapped on 17th hole of Ritzville golf course
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Communities from the Tri-Cities to Spokane Valley are cleaning up after thunderstorms brought punishing winds that knocked down trees and snapped power lines across Eastern Washington Sunday night.

Some of the worst damage from Sunday night's storm hit smaller outlying communities, such as in Ritzville, which caused an incredible amount of destruction. As the town picks up debris and works to get things back to normal, everyone is counting their blessings that no one was seriously hurt.

Monday has been a long day for Ritzville's public works department. Director Larry Swift has lived in Ritzville most of his life and the amount of damage done by Sunday night's story is like nothing he has ever seen.

"Not quite like this. We've had trees blow over now and then but not this many at one time," Swift said.

The city park saw some of the worst damage with playground equipment hit hard by fallen tree limbs.

"We are trying to pick up all the big stuff in the streets right now so we can get the street sweepers going, and once we get the street opened up we have some farmers who said they would come and help us in the park and the golf course," Swift said.

Golf pro Daniel Duff at the Ritzville Municipal Golf Course is taking the damage it all in stride.

"Yeah it opened up the course a little bit, make things a little easier for some people," Duff said.

Duff added that all things considered the damage could have been much worse

"Luckily none of our greens got damaged too bad, the tee boxes we have a few tee boxes that are covered up with pretty good-sized trees," he said.

Duff said there were about 10 trees around the course blown over by the storm.

"The worst part is that they were all good trees or they were good trees. We have a lot of dead ones that we would like to see gone can't really control that," he said.

The community is rallying together to clean up the damage in Ritzville, clearing the streets, park and golf course, and get the town back up and running.

"Luckily we have a lot of volunteers so it shouldn't cost us much of anything," Duff said.

The widespread damage from Sunday night's storm also left downed trees and damaged buildings in its wake across Spokane County. At the Spokane County Interstate Fairgrounds, vendors who capped off the 2013 fair Sunday night were spending Monday cleaning up broken tents, lights and signs after the storm passed over the fairgrounds.

"That storm had a lot of force, more than I've ever seen here," Eldon Rush with Italian Sausage Sandwich said.

The fair closed Sunday night at 8 p.m. and the crowds had cleared out from the fairgrounds long before the storm came rolling through after 9 p.m.

Most of the damage was done to the food vendors' tents. In Eldon Rush's case, the storm flattened his tent and caused $8,000 in damage.

"It happens but I have never seen it happen to that degree," he said. "You can't go against Mother Nature."

No one was hurt and the buildings at the fairgrounds weren't damaged. Fair officials say it would have been much worse if the National Weather Service hadn't called.

"They said 'You have 50 minutes before it hits,' they told us it was 40-50 mph winds and it would be followed by rain and lightning," Fair coordinator Jessica McLaughlin said.

Vendors were alerted and while some, like Eldon Rush, were hit hard, some fared much better.

"We might have lost a little paper material but that's pennies in consideration to what other people lost," Evan Underwood with Glazed and Confused said.

Underwood added the storm Sunday night was like a scene out of a movie.

"It was really like a tornado was coming through, all of a sudden, tents were upside down, people were running around like crazy, people were hiding behind buildings, tree branches were falling down," he said.