December 2006 windstorm – West Seattle Blog… West Seattle news, 24/7 Sun, 19 Aug 2018 13:30:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 One year ago tonight: Windstorm anniversary Fri, 14 Dec 2007 23:30:03 +0000 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:

Utility Has Improved Response, Expanded Mutual Aid and More Is On the Way

SEATTLE – As the Seattle area marks the anniversary of its most devastating windstorm in decades, Seattle City Light continues to build on the significant improvements the utility has made in storm response, mutual aid, tree trimming and training since the Dec. 14, 2006, storm.

The Hanukkah eve storm left about 180,000 customers without power, representing almost half of Seattle City Light’s service area. The extensive damage challenged the utility’s ability to restore power. While most customers had their lights back on within two days, some were out for more than a week.

Following the storm, Seattle City Light reviewed its response internally, hired a consultant for an external review and asked other utilities with extensive emergency response experts to provide a peer review. That process led to recommendations for improving Seattle City Light’s storm response planning and procedures.

“We learned many lessons from the December windstorm and have made significant changes to improve our response in the future,” Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said. “While we can’t prevent storms from causing damage and power outages, we are committed to better response times and, more importantly, providing our customers with better information on when they can expect to have their power restored.”

Among the changes that already have been made:
— A comprehensive storm-response plan is in place with a centralized command center to improve coordination. Critical and essential employees have received training and participated in several drills based on the plan.
— Damage assessment teams are now being used to identify damage during large-scale outages. Previously, damage reports often came from customer calls.
— Field crews – from damage assessors, electrical constructors, vegetation management to lineworkers — have increased from 200 to 600.
— Tree trimming was expanded by more than $1 million, allowing 150 miles of power lines to be cleared in 2007, compared to 20 miles in 2006.
— More than 80 mutual aid agreements are in place, increasing the availability of outside help when needed.

Response time has improved, too. In the December 2006 storm, 833 customers per hour were restored; in a somewhat similar event on October 18, 2007, 2,222 customers per hour were restored – and all 60,000 customers who lost power were restored in less than 24 hours.

More is needed and underway.
— The City Council approved $3.9 million for an initial investment in an outage management system that will provide better information to customers about outages and ensure a faster, targeted response.
— The council approved $5 million for City Light to build a permanent emergency operations center.
— The council approved $5.5 million for the initial phase of an asset management program to replace old equipment and improve reliability.
— The tree trimming budget will increase again in 2008 and Seattle City Light is on track to return to a four-year cycle for covering the entire city by 2011.
— Seattle City Light has approval to add 63 workers in skilled trades, including 53 lineworkers.

“We have come a long way in just a year’s time,” says Carrasco. “But, we still have much more to do to improve our ability to provide customers with accurate and timely information about power restoration.”

Share This

]]> 1
Upper Fauntleroy sinkhole progress report Fri, 26 Oct 2007 17:07:10 +0000

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.

Share This

Another December ’06 windstorm loose end Wed, 24 Oct 2007 12:04:58 +0000 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:

During the terrible windstorm of December 2006, our home in the Arbor Heights neighborhood of West Seattle was severely damaged by a 140 ft. Poplar tree that was blown over on top of our house. My wife, our two small children and myself huddled in the basement unsure whether the house would crash down upon us under the weight of the tree. We were forced to crawl out to evacuate in the wee hours of the morning as the house was rendered uninhabitable by the strike. Frightened and shaken we sought refuge at our dear friends home nearby. Later that morning, we awoke from a brief, fitful amount of sleep to face the challenge. We thought since we had bought what we thought was a good homeowners policy with a well established company in Farmers Insurance, things would go well. How horribly wrong and naïve we were. Here we are ten months later and we are still in the process of struggling (and I mean struggling) to reach a fair settlement with Farmers Insurance so that we can begin the rebuild process. You may have read about us in Amy Rolph’s story in the PI regarding the aftermath of the storm.

After receiving an incredibly low initial estimate for repairs from farmers, we hired the best public adjuster we could find (the president of the trade group for crying out loud) and hired a contractor that is considered an expert by insurance companies (they frequently give expert testimony for insurance companies in cases like ours), we hired a licensed, insured, experienced structural engineering firm. All of this was done in pursuit of getting true, accurate, real-world scope of work and cost information. It did take a long time, but we had hoped Farmers would have recognized that we didn’t just pull the information gleaned out of thin air and understood that we used quality, reputable local experts. The fact that even after hiring all of these experts and carefully putting together estimates, we are still having such a hard time reaching an equitable settlement reaffirms the fear that we would have been totally taken advantage of if we had tried to go it alone and reach an equitable settlement. Understand, the only ‘expert’ Farmers has hired is a firm called BC Investigative Engineers, that prepared the initial report that glossed over the damage and basically recommended a ‘band-aid’ approach to repairs. The entire side of Farmers position has been “handled” by the in-house, company employed adjuster who works from an office in Minnesota and has never been a licensed contractor in Minnesota , let alone Seattle . The fact that the numbers Brian has been coming up with are extremely favorable to Farmers is no surprise. I don’t sign his paychecks, so his loyalty to Farmers is a given. We didn’t expect impartiality, but we did expect fairness.

Another extremely frustrating element to this situation that we had no clue about back at the outset was the involvement of our mortgage companies. Since they are considered parties of interest in this case (even though if we were to sell the place as is-broken, we would be able to cover what we owe the banks), we are obligated to work through the “hall of mirrors” that they call their system for getting repair funds to us. This is an aspect of this experience I had no idea existed before this happened to us. This adds an incredible amount of time and anxiety to things as each bank requires weeks to process the most simple item and refuses to communicate directly with the other. We’ve had massive headaches over trying to get the two banks that have our mortgage and home equity line to communicate clearly what is required in order for the process to move forward through myriad delays. Countrywide representatives told me it was because they had never heard of someone having a home equity line with Chase Manhattan and a mortgage with them… Insinuating that Chase was an obscure choice and that our choice of using them was a possible reason for Countrywide not being able to release funds to us after close to a month of receiving them. I would caution other homeowners to discuss with their mortgage companies what it involves to process a claim settlement and in the event something happens plan on spending a ton of time on the phone calling them and waiting for them to act.

Words cannot describe the amount of anxiety this mess brings on. There is no compensation for it. It seems whenever there is a short straw to be drawn, we are the ones left holding it. The insurance company and the banks establish the system and they carefully set it up so that their interests, above ours, are protected. From our perspective, there really is no leverage we can employ to encourage either the insurance company or the banks to ‘do the right thing’ and be fair. We tried enlisting the Office of the Insurance Commissioner on multiple occasions and found that there really is nothing they can do in situations like this. We’ve reached out to our local politicians (Mayor Nickels, Dow Constantine, Christine Gregoire….) all to no response and no avail. We’ve even done a story with King5 TV’s investigative unit, but they don’t wish to air the piece until late next month. Farmers knows how to exploit the system they created. Its really a one way street. They can (and do) alter the rules at anytime whenever they choose to for their benefit, while we, the other half of the contract do not get that same power.

This whole mess has left us feeling completely disenchanted with Farmers. It shouldn’t be this way… Not this hard to get our home repaired as a result of a legitimate claim. All of the warm, reassuring promises they hawk in their ads like this ring hollow to us or are outright insulting It seems to us it really comes down to numbers and how much they can keep from paying their fair share. There is no consequence to mistreating us. I guess it boils down to the fact that Farmers is a business and the opposite of profit is loss and claims like ours (coincidentally referred to as losses) are nothing more than irritations that the company must combat. It seems to us they don’t care about us, our home or any of the promises they’ve made to us, they just care about the impact our claim has on their bottom line.

Needless to say, we’ve suddenly found ourselves earnest supporters of R67. Not by choice mind you. To us, its personal and its not about frivolous lawsuits, its about leveling the board. There is no leverage we can employ to spur them to do the right, decent and fair thing. At this point, they could give us the exact amount of money we are asking for in our estimate, and they would still win…. We need to pay our lawyers’ fees out of our own pocket– not to mention the untold distress this has caused us. We lose in that we are running out of time with additional living expense funds with each passing day. You should not have to wait close to a year for settlement of a legitimate claim. No way.

Insurance companies can punish people that don’t live up their end of a legitimate contract through various means, be that by dinging their credit report or filing suit… to even bringing criminal charges. Policyholders in Washington on the other hand, have no such weapons to employ in combating bad behavior from insurance companies. What is the worst consequence to them treating us this way? That they pay most of what we deserve? That they have to answer letters from the OIC?

Given the mention of R-67, we asked if they are affiliated with the campaign in any way. The family’s spokesperson said no. Farmers’ response to their allegations is in the P-I story. Here’s one other photo sent by the family, taken just after this all happened last year.

Kathis House.jpg

Share This

]]> 18
Also almost outta here: The Upper Fauntleroy sinkhole Fri, 12 Oct 2007 21:16:51 +0000

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.

Share This

Storm recovery, eight months later Thu, 23 Aug 2007 22:33:26 +0000 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.


Share This

About that sinkhole … Sun, 24 Jun 2007 06:52:45 +0000 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.

Share This

]]> 1
Might as well go buy that generator if you haven’t already Fri, 15 Jun 2007 06:52:16 +0000 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!

Share This

]]> 1
The floodwater’s gone, the trouble isn’t Thu, 19 Apr 2007 09:39:55 +0000 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

Share This

]]> 9
And the name is … Fri, 02 Mar 2007 22:24:35 +0000 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.

Share This

]]> 8
Windstorm wrap-up Tue, 27 Feb 2007 19:41:06 +0000 Two months after Wind-tastrophe ’06, a new city report is out (here’s the city press release, with a link to the full report). Best quote is on page 11: “Seattle City Light should develop a more robust emergency power restoration plan for storms.” No comment

Share This

Windstorm/Snowpocalypse/Disaster-Prep Meeting details Tue, 06 Feb 2007 09:15:24 +0000 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.

7 pm-ish: It began with host County Councilguy Dow Constantine (who is irresistibly likable) and his colleagues introducing themselves. Several seemed to feel the need to show solidarity with the crowd by mentioning how long THEY were without power back in December. Then came yet more intros. Even the mayor of Seatac was in the house, but no sign of a rep of OUR mayor, of course, unless you count WS-residing City Councilguy Tom Rasmussen. Then, a long presentation about some folks who did some bang-up job during the storm. We start looking around the room, deciding it must have been the cafeteria/auditorium when The Hall was Fauntleroy School.

7:30-ish: Council Chairperson Julia Patterson starts telling us there was a windstorm and a lot of people lost power and stuff, then declares the ensuing proceedings will be about finding out “what went right, and what went wrong.” We momentarily brighten when she introduces county disaster expert Eric Holdeman, an often-interesting and well-regarded public official type. Sadly, he disappoints us, especially when claiming a good job was done during stormtime by, and we are distracted by a guy named Michael Fuller who’s handing out flyers in the aisle (after brushing off two official types who seemed to be trying to talk him out of it), campaigning to end homelessness.

7:40-ish: No Just Plain Citizens yet. We hear about more meetings to come, including a Sheltering Summit. (Wasn’t that a novel? Or a mountaintop in Tibet?) We can just feel the crowd seething. People want to shout about how frustrating the power outages and other storm troubles were, yet have no choice but to just sit there, hands in laps, awaiting for a chance to speak.

7:50-ish: Still no JPC’s. The first panel of experts isn’t even the utility panel — it’s public health, sheriffs, Metro buses, and King County roads. Their interesting revelations: The sheriff rep noted that Nextel service sucked during the post-windstorm troubles … the Metro rep noted that their “customer communication system” has trouble keeping up with “rapidly changing conditions,” and then elicits the first real laugh of the night by mentioning “We know that sometimes it’ll snow in the North End and be perfectly dry down here and yet your [West Seattle] buses will just disappear.”

8 pm-ish: Still the first panel. The road lady echoes the sheriff rep’s complaint about Nextel, noting her staff used their personal cell phones to communicate — “Cingular!” she declares cheerily (never mind that brand has just been Borged). She also gets in a little dig against the state DOT, noting her department uses “finer sand that’s easier on your windshield.” What-ever.

Post-8 pm: First public comment. Lady from Vashon says, you folks have been talking a lot about your websites, but that doesn’t do us any good when our power’s out. (Well, we’d beg to differ, kinda.) Couple of the subsequent public comments hit on the topic of global warming. Unfortunately one guy acts a little too woo-woo and gets shouted down before he can finish his manifesto. Best comment comes at the end of this first group: A woman suggests that non-English-speaking families would be best reached with important info (such as, carbon-monoxide danger alerts) by talking to their ELL kids at school and sending info home with THEM. Word.

8:20-ish pm: FINALLY! THE UTILITY PANEL! A Metro wastewater/stormwater guy, a Puget Sound Energy guy, and — ta-daa! — a Seattle City Light guy. Of course, guess who speaks LAST. By now, less than half the original 300-400-ish crowd is left. All the same, the water guy has some disquieting recaps, about the millions of gallons of untreated “wastewater” that poured into Puget Sound when the outage took out pumping stations (like the ones by the ferry dock and Lowman Beach). The PSE guy keeps harping on the fact his utility has 10,000 miles of overhead wiring.

8:40-ish: NOW! FINALLY! THE SEATTLE CITY LIGHT GUY! Chief of Staff Sung Yang. We nickname him Slick. (And it makes sense, now that we find out he used to be a lawyer.) Maddeningly, he begins by trying to give us City Light history, after trying to win us over by asking for a show of hands (“how many of you are City Light customers? how many of you lost power for 3 days or more?”). Otherwise, a lot of numbers. 1,400 employees, with 300 of them working 24/7 (what were the other 1,100 doing?), 94 people answering phones … hike! no, wait. He pretends to explain how SCL prioritizes, and then has the gall to say SCL used the web well for updates during the outages. (Uh, no. The SCL page had so few specifics, we spent an entire week driving around WS trying to find out what was really going on.) Oh, and the 20K leaflets! (Did you get one? We never did.) Then a joke about City Light having run out of flashlight batteries, requiring runs to Home Depot. (Lucky them; we couldn’t find ’em anywhere, not even 7-11.) In closing, at least, he offered a bit of honesty: City Light needs a “functional outage management system,” to provide accurate info on when power would be restored. YA THINK????

9 pm-ish: Councilguy Dow says it’s time for an official closing statement, before more Just Plain Citizens get to ask questions and make comments, ’cause the Vashon contingent has to catch the 9:20 boat down the street. A couple of guys from “Vashon Be Prepared” get up and pat themselves on the back so hard that … well, you know how that old line goes. But seriously, sounds like they might have some tips for us all. Talk to your neighbors. Don’t just do a block watch for crime, do a block watch for helping each other out in case of disaster.

9:10-ish: Questions for the utility guys are over; now it’s time for comments from people who signed up to speak. (One woman storms out of the room ranting that she had no idea she would have to sign up to get the chance to speak. Sadly, she left before they did veer for a few minutes into “open mike” time.) The Seatac mayor has a real bone to pick about disaster preparedness and citizen involvement. Says he’s known as the “Preparedness Terrorist.” Councilmembers laugh nervously. (Google doesn’t know him by that name.)

9:30-ish: Finally the fireworks. (Unfortunately the tv crews are gone by now.) A woman identifying herself as Martha leaps up to say she’s been to the DMZ in Korea, she’s been to Czechoslovakia, and the chaos she saw in West Seattle during the post-storm days ranked right down there with everything she’d been through in those places. Her best line: “We weren’t prepared when the weather went psycho.”

And then, cue Goodspaceguy and his appropriate closing remark, mentioned in our earlier post. Us diehards (and participants’ entourage members) stagger out into the damp night. If you want to see all this for yourself, check out King County TV on-air or online later today (my advice, just scroll ahead/fast forward all the way to Martha and Goodspaceguy).

Share This

]]> 4
First note on The Meeting (more later) Tue, 06 Feb 2007 06:30:05 +0000 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.


Share This

The place to be tonight Mon, 05 Feb 2007 21:25:53 +0000 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.)

Share This

Tomorrow’s the big night Mon, 05 Feb 2007 04:03:30 +0000 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.

Share This

One week from tonight Mon, 29 Jan 2007 14:37:14 +0000 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?)

Share This

]]> 2