Colder Weather in the Forecast After Wind Topples Trees and Knocks Out Power; Packwood Area Hit Hard


Multiple properties were damaged and power was knocked out for thousands following a wild wind storm that hit Packwood and other communities in Lewis and Thurston counties this past weekend.

Packwood area resident Peter Charbonnier spoke to The Chronicle about the storm that blew in late Friday night, toppling trees onto vehicles and structures in the High Valley neighborhood.

“I got woken up because you could hear the trees hitting the ground, just loud booms. My car alarm kept going off because branches kept hitting it and as the night wore on it just got worse and worse,” Charbonnier said.

Ultimately, Charbonnier lost his backyard shed to the storm when a tree fell on it. The tree was so tall it managed to hit and destroy his neighbor’s shed, too. He added that the trees seemed to fall like dominoes in some instances, with one falling and hitting another, leading to a chain reaction.

While he and his neighbor escaped the storm with minimal property damage, another neighbor of Charbonnier was not so lucky. 

“A tree crashed right through her bedroom ceiling, and that tree is still stuck on her roof. Thankfully nobody was hurt but she came very close to buying it that night because she was in bed when the tree came through. She lost her car, her house and her RV, all of them got split right down the middle,” Charbonnier said.

Packwood residents are still picking up the pieces following the weekend storm, but according to Charbonnier, there are more trees threatening to fall during the next storm.

“We realized that as these trees were coming down in the middle of the night they had knocked into a bunch of other trees and all of those were now at, instead of 90 degree angles, they’re kind of at like 70 degree angles. So there’s still a bunch more trees back there that are threatening to come down,” Charbonnier said.

He hopes to contact the Forest Service to see if some of the trees can be cut down before the next storm.

Aside from the toppling trees, power was knocked out for wide swaths of Lewis and Thurston counties.

Outages were reported on the Lewis County Public Utilities District (PUD) Facebook page for residents in Packwood, Randle, Ashford, Elbe, Morton, Mossyrock and Chehalis at various points throughout the weekend. The largest outages were seen in the Packwood area, according to Daniel Hargrove, Lewis County PUD public information officer.

“Packwood seemed to get the worst of it. For the trees, the soggy ground from the rain combined with the wind created brutal conditions,” Hargrove said.

He said at the storm’s peak, 9,721 customers had lost power throughout Lewis County around 1 a.m. on Saturday. As of 10:20 p.m. on Sunday night, all known major outages had been restored.

“I’d like to thank our customers for their patience while we worked on restoring power as well as the crews who have been working 24/7 to restore power,” Hargrove said.

In Centralia, outages started Friday night, according to Centralia City Light General Manager M.L. Norton.

“The outages that Centralia City Light experienced beginning Friday night around 11:20 p.m. were caused by trees falling into Centralia City Light’s lines. The outages were scattered and did not affect more than 75 customers at a time,” Norton said in an email.

Norton said the largest outage was seen in the area of North Pearl Street in the vicinity of Carol Road and Eureka Avenue.

“The tree was cleared and power was restored around 4:30 a.m.,” added Norton.

All power was restored in Centralia as of 6:45 a.m. on Saturday and Norton stated that no further outages have been reported.

As for Thurston County, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) announced that 14,500 customers had lost power starting Friday night, according to reporting by The Olympian.

“Throughout the county our crews found trees on wires, fallen trees blocking roads and branches into our lines,” PSE Spokesman Andrew Padula said.

He added that areas southwest of Tumwater seemed to bear the brunt of the storm as four power poles got knocked down over a third of a mile stretch, blocking the road and blowing a transformer out. Around 1,400 Thurston County residents remained without power as of Saturday night and PSE expected to have repairs completed and power restored to all residents by 6 a.m. Monday morning.

While residents may still be recovering from this weekend, another storm was forecast to hit Monday, bringing more wind to Western Washington.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Seattle announced it expects colder temperatures to move into the area this week starting with the storm Monday night.

This early winter storm is being fueled by strong Fraser River outflow winds coming down from Canada, according to the weather service. Following Monday’s storm, winds are predicted to die down and the weather forecast is dry throughout the week; however, it will remain cold with highs in the lower 40s and lows below freezing according to NWS.

While some precipitation may occur, it’s not anticipated to be heavy, but a rain and snow mix might be seen and light overnight snowfall could happen in some areas.

The snowy weather was forecast for Monday night, with a rain and snow mixture expected at elevations between 500 and 1,500 feet in the Cascade foothills.

Snow can be anticipated at elevations above 1,500 feet in western Whatcom County and lower elevations in the northern Olympic Peninsula, the San Juan Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“Snow is not expected to be widespread and will be limited to areas naturally enhanced by upslope flow under a northeasterly wind pattern,” stated an excerpt from a NWS briefing. 

More falling trees, tree limb damage and power outages are possible during Monday’s storm, according to the weather service.