BEND, Ore. - (Update: comments from arborist, affected residents)
A fierce windstorm raked the High Desert and much of Oregon Friday, sending numerous tall trees toppling onto power lines, roads and homes, as power outages affected more than 200,000 residents around the state.
The National Weather Service initially issued a high wind warning for the region until 8 p.m. and warned of gusts to 65 mph for much of that time. The warning was dropped a bit earlier than predicted, around 5 p.m.
Gusts close to or above 50 mph were reported at numerous locations across Central Oregon. The strongest gust by mid-morning at Bend Airport east of town was 54 mph shortly before 5 a.m., and again at 10 a.m., when gusts to 51 mph were recorded at Madras Airport, but gusts close to that continued for hours in many areas.
Utility and city and county crews scrambled to handle numerous downed trees across the region. Like other areas of the state, the soil has been saturated by weeks of winter snow that took months to melt in places.
Few areas were spared downed trees, from a half-dozen downed poles at Highway 20 and Ward Road to downed trees on Bear Creek and Brosterhous roads, at Delaware Avenue and Lava Road, and at Gosney and Rickard roads. Trees also were falling around Sunriver and in Deschutes River Woods, where a tree fell on a house at Navajo Road and Paiute Circle. On Bend's Westside, a large tree was downed on NW Fifth Street north of Portland Avenue.
Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt said the roughly 200,000 customers affected by outages between his utlity and Portland General Electric included about 4,000 Pacific Power customers in the Bend area by mid-morning. He said they were scattered throughout the area and not in any one concentrated location.
The Bend-area downed trees also had the potential of sparking fires, and a tree was reported on fire shortly before 10 a.m. at Northeast Eighth Street and Norton Avenue, as crews were kept busy responding to numerous downed trees and power lines.
Fortunately, as of late morning, no injuries had been reported to the Emergency Operations Center set up at the Bend Police Department headquarters, said city Communications Director Anne Aurand.
Weather spotter reports included a gust to 58 mph south-southeast of Bend, as the strong winds continued into the afternoon.
The storm turned deadly in Washington County, west of Portland, where a Tigard man died after being hit by a falling tree limb. Ronald Kibert, 67, was found unconscious under a large tree limb in a backyard in the Garden Home neighborhood, the Washington county Sheriff's Office reported. He was taken to a hospital but died shortly after arrival.
Bend Fire Battalion Chief Dave Howe urged residents, if they had to venture outside, to be very cautious and watch for falling branches and flying debris -- and not to approach any downed wires.
"Be aware that a tree can fall unexpectedly in a storm of this magnitude and stay well clear," Howe said. "Your best best for personal safety is to remain indoors until the wind dies down a bit."
Trees also fell at Drake Park and other parks due to the high winds, prompting the Bend Park and Recreation District to urge residents to avoid parks and trails until the winds subside and their crews can get out and assess the damage.
The winds also were fierce at Mt. Bachelor, where the Pine Marten Lodge reported a 99 mph gust at 7 a.m.
Workplace impacts likely include Oregon DMV, which urged customers to delay a visit as the wind might interrupt services.
Pacific Power said outages also were reported Friday morning in cities from the Willamette Valley down toward the California state line, including Albany, Bandon, Grants Pass, North Bend, Roseburg and many other communities.
The utility said crews had restored power to thousands of customers, but more than 60,000 homes and businesses still had no lights at 9 a.m.
The lights were also going out in Portland, as gusty winds tossed debris across downtown streets and forced construction workers to hold on to their hard hats.
Portland General Electric reports nearly 100,000 customers were without power at 9 a.m. in the three-county metro area. Another 13,000 customers were without power in the county that includes Salem.
Some schools in Western Oregon canceled classes or delayed bus routes because of outages and downed trees.
A tree fell on the home of Michael Galvin of Deschutes River Woods Friday morning: "It's actually in the corner bedroom, and then it punctured through the roof. What're you going to do? I can't cry about it, you know, it is what it is."
With wind speeds reaching up to 60 mph in some areas, it was an all-out effort by public crews to keep the roads clear and people safe.
"We're asking the public to stay inside, don't go out if you don't have to,’ said Jodie Barram, public affairs officer for Bend Fire and Rescue. “We're just hoping the public will stay safe. Pay attention to your neighborhood, your neighbors, and watch for things in the road or coming though the sky."
That includes really big things, like the roof of El Sancho's Taco Shack.
"I pulled up in the back, saw El Sancho completely upside down," said Kenneth Kelley
Arborist Ian Smith of Simply Arbor had some tips to watch for at-risk trees.
"Sometimes, you can look for roots heaving or trees leaning,” he said. “Oftentimes you'll have a shift in the tree's overall lean that would be something to pay attention to.
“Oftentimes if you notice something is just off, a lot of times that gut feeling is one of the best providers that something may be happening with your tree." Smith added.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.