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Wild spring windstorm downs trees, blacks out neighborhoods

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When the storm blew into Southeast, trees toppled, limbs fell, and the power went out

The windstorm forecast for Friday, April 7, roared DAVID F. ASHTON - The tree collapsing onto the power lines in front of the Ashton residence in Brentwood-Darlington took out the power for blocks around. into the Southeast Portland earlier than predicted, and the gusts were stronger, too.

Weather forecasters had warned the day would be breezy, but no one expected sustained wind speeds of 44 mph, with gusts up to 56 mph, as recorded by the National Weather Service at the Portland Airport.

As the storm rolled in, all of THE BEE's correspondents headed out to cover what Portland General Electric said was the strongest windstorm in the Portland area in over a decade.

At the Ashton residence near S.E. 52nd Avenue and Flavel Drive, at about 7:15 a.m., a thunderous "crack" was heard as the microwave oven cooking breakfast went silent and the lights went out. The reason for the power outage became clear: Two of the three stems of a tall fir tree in the front yard had snapped, and took down a 7,500 volt feeder line, and the telephone and cable lines nearby, as they fell into the road.

DAVID F. ASHTON - William Kuhn grills sausages with Ottos' owner Gretchen Eichentopf on the sidewalk in front of the popular store, despite Woodstock Boulevard being blacked out. She told THE BEE, "We can cook hot dogs and sausages, no matter what."
Calls to Portland General Electric to report power outages in Southeast Portland were fruitless; all of the attempts were met with a "circuits busy" recording, as the call center was swamped with outage reports from around the area.

"Falling trees caused by a combination of saturated soil and the strongest winds in more than ten years, caused the vast majority of the outages, with more than 1,300 downed lines reported," said PGE spokesman Stan Sittser, after the storm.

COURTESY OF DAVE MONNIE - At 9:45 a.m. on April 7, BEE reader Dave Monnie snapped and shared with us this photo of a tree down at 1014 S.E. Lexington Street in Sellwood.
A BEE tour of surrounding neighborhoods found trees down on S.E. 35th Avenue at Knapp Street, S.E. 13th Avenue at Rural Street, and S.E. Knapp Street just west of 45th Avenue, among many others.

BEE correspondent Becky Luening reported, "I woke up to windstorm noises that included something clattering around where we're building an ADU, but I found that it was a plastic bucket that was being knocked around on an outdoor porch. Everything else seemed pretty well secured, or heavy enough to resist the wind."

BECKY LUENING - A school bus maneuvers around a tree felled by high winds, blocking the eastbound lane of S.E. Woodstock Boulevard near 60th Avenue.
Heading out to take her niece to Portland International Airport at about 8:30 a.m. that morning, Luening saw traffic congestion near S.E. 60th Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard. "A tall conifer had been downed, and was blocking the entire eastbound lane, so I stopped to snap a photo," she said.

Longtime correspondent for THE BEE Rita Leonard, based in Brooklyn, recalled, "I woke up to the sound of my dogwood tree clawing at the window. I heard the clattering of neighbors' garbage and recycling bins being blown open or blown down, and looked out the window to see a 'snowstorm' of papers merrily spinning down the street."

RITA A. LEONARD - If a large cherry tree crashes down near your home, it's a good thing that first responders from Westmoreland's Fire Station 20 are right next door!
She picked up some of the swirling trash; "Then I decided that BEE coverage was more important. I grabbed my camera and headed out to see what damage the wind had wrought, and what a spectacle! Fire trucks with sirens speeding hither and yon, and a series of completely 're-landscaped' streets."

The Woodstock business district was blacked out, and the restaurants there were closed. However a hot lunch was to be found, as usual, in front of Otto's Sausage Kitchen and Deli, where patrons lined up for hot-off-the-grill brats, sausages, and hot dogs.

At about 12:30 p.m. that afternoon, Woodstock Fire Station 25 firefighters took a break from "downed tree duty" to answer a residential fire call at 4922 S.E. 52nd Avenue.

"We called 9-1-1 when we saw smoke and fire coming up from behind the house," a neighbor told THE BEE. The PF&R Battalion Chief said it was some type of propane-caused fire, perhaps a cooking fire, that caught the back porch of the house on fire.

Also recalling the storm was BEE correspondent and Woodstock resident Elizabeth Ussher Groff. "When our winds were 60 m.p.h., the force was strong enough to make me grab a small tree's trunk to stay upright.

"A tree that fell at S.E. 37th Avenue and Steele Street had been so tall that it spanned Steele Street's width, and forced my husband to find a different route to the gym," she recalled.

As the winds subsided, PGE repair crews got busy restoring power – but there were so many localized lines down across Portland that even with crews brought in to help from around the state, as well as from California and Washington, it took more than three days for the last of the power outages to be resolved.