'Massive' wind storm blows across Idaho

Wednesday , June 06, 2012 - 9:55 AM

Katy Moeller

BOISE, Idaho -- Wind gusts of 66 mph knocked down more than two dozen 120-foot-tall trees near a compound Monday night.

Trees fell on three buildings and a U.S. Forest Service truck at the Krassel Work Center, which has bunkhouses for seasonal and temporary employees, said Laura Pramuk, public affairs officer for the Payette National Forest.

Pramuk said it was a harrowing night for two employees at the remote site, about 56 miles from Cascade. The buildings they were in were struck by trees.

"They ran out of the buildings, met up and jumped into a Forest Service vehicle, and drove to the airstrip," where there are no trees, Pramuk said. "They slept in the middle of the airstrip all night."

The two were shaken up but not injured, Pramuk said. Forest Service officials have not assessed the cost of repairing the building roofs or replacing the crushed pickup. The buildings are new modulars brought to the work center last year.

Three-quarters of a mile of ponderosa pines snapped off at midtrunk in the same area, according to a National Weather Service report.

The storm dropped more than an inch of rain on Baker City, Ore., and parts of western Canyon County, but little rain fell in the Treasure Valley, according to the weather service. There wasn’t much lightning either.

The highest recorded winds in southern Idaho were 70 mph at Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, said the weather service’s George Skari.



Rich Wills, a part-time Elmore County sheriff’s deputy, said an unofficial wind gauge in Glenns Ferry recorded gusts of 84 mph.

"We had a massive disaster ... I have been here 45 years and I’ve never seen a storm even close to this," Wills said.

A power pole fell across Idaho 20 about 7 miles outside of Mountain Home, forcing the closure of the highway until about 5 a.m. Tuesday. Firefighters also battled a large blaze near the highway, according to Elmore County Sheriff Rick Layher.

In Glenns Ferry, four different fires were reported at about the same time, and trees fell on a house and a motel complex.

Hundreds of power poles were knocked down by the storm, causing 52,000 Idaho Power customers in eastern Oregon and Southwest Idaho to lose electricity.

"It was a big event," Skari said.

Idaho Power received an unprecedented volume of calls from customers, overloading its system. The information line was restored Tuesday.

About 7,000 customers in Idaho and eastern Oregon were still without power Tuesday afternoon.

The cold front knocked temperatures in the Treasure Valley from a high of 93 on Monday to 51 overnight. Tuesday was even colder, with the high reaching just 57 and overnight lows in the Treasure Valley expected to be in the mid- to upper 30s.

2012 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

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