West Seattle, Washington
Didn’t want to let this calendar date go by without a mention: It’s been 15 years since the Hanukkah Eve Windstorm – early on December 15, 2006 – left thousands in West Seattle without power for days, among more than 1 million around the region. This sign photographed at Highland Park Way and SW Othello five days later told the story:
Some pockets of West Seattle didn’t get their power back for almost a week. (Our Upper Fauntleroy neighborhood was out for more than three days.) But other areas had it tougher – more were out on the Eastside, and five died of carbon-monoxide poisoning in Burien – so WS didn’t get as much attention (that’s when, and why, our site started morphing to news coverage). Power crews came from far away to help – note what’s written on this truck we photographed in Alki:
Citywide media also reported that City Light was shorthanded pre-storm. Meantime, before the wind, a 2-inch downpour opened a sinkhole at the top of the SW Thistle stairway, among other damage:
We were wondering if anyone was going to notice that tonight’s the anniversary of last year’s big windstorm. King County noticed, at least. On December 14 of last year, we mentioned the pouring rain at 5:22 pm … then the howling wind, at 11:28 pm. If you want to relive the (non-) joy of the ensuing days and nights of powerlessness, cleanup, and repairs, pick up our archived coverage (in reverse chronological order) here. Tonight’s forecast, meantime, looks like a breeze in comparison. 10 PM UPDATE: City Light issued a “windstorm anniversary” news release tonight touting changes made since last year – here’s the full text, since we can’t find it anywhere on the city website so far:Read More
The work to fill the Upper Fauntleroy sinkhole/gully (atop the Thistle hillside stairs, at Thistle/Northrop) is going well, according to an update we just got from Seattle Public Utilities senior engineer Jim Lee; photo above is from less than an hour ago. Jim e-mailed WSB with this update for everyone in the area:
The gully has been mostly filled in, except for the north head of the gully. We are planning on filling it in with Control Density Fill (CDF) and then starting sidewalk repairs. This should occur either today (if we are lucky and the crews can get CDF today) or by Monday (more than likely). Until then, the sidewalk and stairs will be closed. The temporary bridge was removed on Thursday so that crews could clean up all of the sidewalk concrete that had fallen into the gully.
The P-I has an article today about an Arbor Heights couple still trying to get their insurance company to pay for the damage done when this happened during last winter’s storm:
Right after last week’s storm, we heard from the couple too, but hadn’t gotten the opportunity to go over and talk with them yet. Since their story’s out elsewhere in the mediasphere now, though, we thought you might want to read the version they sent out, press release-style, last week. Here it is, unedited:Read More
Sunday marks 10 months since the raucous rainstorm that preceded the wild windstorm. One of the first effects of the pounding rain on December 14th of last year was the Upper Fauntleroy sinkhole at Thistle/Northrop (above photo shows the site today). Save for a little cleanup, and a temporary bridge built in January so walkers could still use the Thistle hillside stairs, plus improvements to city storm drains nearby, the sinkhole has remained, gaping, barely cordoned off, ever since. But not for much longer; flyers have just appeared in the Seattle Public Utilities sign by the sinkhole, saying that “we have resolved the outstanding property issues and are ready to commence with the repair project. We are currently waiting for authorization from the State/FEMA … We are anticipating on receiving authorization within the next week.” The flyer says the sinkhole, which the city calls a “gully,” will be filled in with “structural fill.” It’s accumulated some unofficial fill over these long months:
As for how this work might affect you if you use this area — the city says it may start “quickly and on very short notice,” will take 4-5 days, will involve some traffic restrictions at that sharp corner, and most significantly (the city flyer puts it in bold, so we will too): The stairs will be temporarily closed during the duration of the repair work. Very popular for people walking to and from Lincoln Park, so plan alternate routes.
South WS drivers beware: Seattle city crews have stepped up the drainage work at the south end of the Cali straightaway (Cali/Thistle) and, a block downhill, next to the Thistle/Northrop sinkhole that opened in the deluge before last December’s windstorm. Heavy equipment tore up more pavement today at Cali/Thistle (photo below) and the Thistle/Northrop bend is squeezed to one lane.
Six months after the deluge preceding the December windstorm created the Thistle/Northrop sinkhole (at the end of the 52-y-o hillside staircase) in Upper Fauntleroy, Seattle Public Utilities is finally about to do something substantial in the area. Before we elaborate: Two photos, one looking west into the sinkhole a few days after the storm (before the temporary bridge was built); the next, a recent look east at and below the segment of “suspended” sidewalk that’s been literally hanging there (blocked off from public access) ever since:
Now, the apparent plan: Flyers available at the Thistle/Northrop corner say SPU will start work next weekend on “drainage catch basins and inlets” both at that corner and a block east at Thistle/Cali. They describe the “new drainage structures” as “improved grates with curb openings to help facilitate storm water drainage when debris covers them.” As for the sinkhole itself, which now seems to be dubbed a “gully,” SPU writes on the flyer:
We are continuing to work with FEMA and private property owners to repair the gully that was eroded during the 2006 winter storms. We anticipate that this work, which will include rebuilding the sidewalks to provide access to the SW Thistle St stairs, will be completed later this summer. Thank you for your continued patience.
For walkers/joggers who are wondering (like us), we just sent a note to SPU to ask if the upcoming work will block off the stairs again … we’ll let you know what we hear.
The ’06 Windstorm (preceded by mega-deluge) smacked us exactly six months ago. And the scariest line in this report about another assessment of Seattle City Light’s troubles in its aftermath is the part where SCL boss Jorge Carrasco is quoted as saying “I don’t want our customers to believe we will be at optimal level” before next storm season. Candles! Batteries! Firewood! Start stocking up now!
When you hear “last December’s storm,” you probably think wind (and powerlessness). But some think first of the fast, furious rainstorm that preceded the wind, created the Upper Fauntleroy sinkhole (bridged but still not filled), and swept floodwater through some WS homes. The homeowners with flood damage are still trying to get things set right; one homeowner has e-mailed us to say they’re organizing a West Seattle flood victims’ group, plus warning us all to watch for what is alleged to be the real culprit in the spot flooding — filters left in storm drains by contractors and construction crews. Regarding the damage already done, they’re thinking about suing, and inviting anybody and everybody who had flood trouble to e-mail them at email@example.com.
The National Weather Service just announced the winning name in the contest (here’s a Times writeup) to name the December 2006 windstorm: The Hanukkah Eve Windstorm. We still think “Thursday Night Football Windstorm” would have been better. At least the winning name came from somebody in Burien, which was hit just about as hard as we were in WS.
2 hours and 40 minutes, but nobody was really fired up till the very end … shame, since by then, about 95% of what started as an SRO crowd had long since fled into the fog.Read More
So the very last speaker at The Windstorm/Snowpocalypse/Disaster-Prep County Council Meeting in Fauntleroy tonight was a literal space cadet; yet his comment was the truest of the night. A onetime political candidate now best known as Goodspaceguy (name changed to reflect his interest in space colonization), said something along the lines of this: “Honorable Councilmembers, a whole lot of people got up and left, disgusted, because they waited and waited and didn’t get a chance to talk. I respectfully suggest that next time you let the PEOPLE talk first, so that if they have to leave after a while, they can do it when it’s the presenters’ turn, not theirs.” A-men. Not a single NON-politico/bureaucrat got a chance to open her/his mouth until well past an hour in. More in a bit.
Last warning — 7 pm tonight, The Hall at Fauntleroy, our West Seattle rep on the King County Council, Dow Constantine, brings the entire council to WS to look back at our windstorm woes, and look ahead to how to avoid similar trouble next time. Councilmember Constantine’s office tells us this will NOT be televised live on public access, so if you wanna know, you gotta go. (It will be taped for broadcast online and on the air tomorrow.)
Second-to-last reminder: Tomorrow night, The Hall @ Fauntleroy, 7 pm, the entire County Council plus reps of Seattle City Light among others, our chance to hear them explain why we were in the dark so long after the December windstorm, and what’s changed (if anything) to prevent a rerun “next time” … we’ll of course post a report here afterward, but a full house would sure make a nice statement to TPTB.
Just a reminder to mark your calendar for one of those rare don’t-miss meetings: our county councilguy Dow bringing the entire council to the Hall @ Fauntleroy, 7 pm next Monday, to talk about Windstorm ’06 (no NWS name decision yet) and Are We Ready For The Next One? (The advance materials mention utility reps; s’pose anyone from City Light will show?)
As of a few hours ago, the Thistle/Northrop sinkhole has a bridge over it, which means (a) the stairway down to Lincoln Park is fully usable again, and (b) you can get one heck of a view directly into the sinkhole (most amazing is the sidewalk along the west side of Northrop, just suspended in mid-air, nothing beneath it). We’ll have to go back later for a picture of that, but we did catch the bridge-building SDOT crew there this morning:
West-Seattle-based County Councilguy, Dow Constantine, promised two weeks ago to look into why WS had so much power trouble because of stormy weather. Looks like he’s keeping that promise. In fact, the entire King County Council will hit the road for Fauntleroy in early February. (By then, we fear, we will need an “outage diary” to keep track of everything that’s happened. At this moment, in fact, we are under 3 separate special weather alerts!)
The wires have been spliced, the trees have been removed, but the Upper Fauntleroy sinkhole lingers. Two weeks ago, we wrote the city DOT to ask about its fate. After twelve days, a sort of reply came – from someone at SDOT who wrote, “I was told … you should contact (name) at Seattle Public Utilities. By way of this e-mail, I am forwarding your concerns to (name).” Mr. (name), who was cc’d, has yet to weigh in. (And why is this his project — the neighboring stairway, out of commission because of all this, is an SDOT responsibility.) Meantime, the sinkhole gapes, beyond just the barest of cordoning:
We have not yet watched last night’s “Lessons from the Windstorm” City Council hearing (should turn up today on the Seattle Channel site), but at least one WSB reader who saw it “live” describes it exactly the way the Times and P-I do today — mostly a ventstorm from City Light workers who bravely stood up in front of politicians and media to accuse their bosses of bungling things while tens of thousands of us spent days in the dark, in more ways than one. We heard some of this during the outage, of course; then we heard city management take the first opportunity to refute it. But what’s that old saying about “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”? So the real issue is … what now, when the hearings end, when the bad weather retreats for another year, will anyone really change anything?
Quote of the day, from city councilman Richard Conlin, in the P-I, looking ahead to the hearing he’s leading tonight on “Lessons from the Windstorm.” He’s talking about how city agencies, especially Seattle City Light, handled the storm’s aftermath, including the outages that left so many of us without power for so long. And he appropriately spotlights the fact that so many of us didn’t and couldn’t get any information about HOW long we would be without power. Even information on who had their power back on and who was left to work on, would have been great; during that long dark week, we were reduced to driving around once it started getting dark, to get a take on things. Really, for those of us who were out of power for days, did you imagine, when it went out, that it would take so long to get it back? (By the way, if you can’t make it to City Hall to tell your story tonight, you can watch the hearing live on the Seattle Channel, ch. 21, or a replay Friday morning.)