Pierce County residents hunkered down Saturday in expectation of damaging winds from a storm blowing through Western Washington this weekend, but the strength of the storm in the Tacoma area appeared weaker than advertised.
There was scattered rain and some powerful wind gusts near Tacoma on Saturday evening — up to 53 miles per hour at the Tacoma Narrows Airport — but by and large Pierce County was spared the downed trees and damage that struck western and southern areas of the state.
“Where I’m at in Tacoma it’s been pretty quiet,” said Steve Collins, a spokesman for the Tacoma Fire Department.
Around 5:40 p.m., Collins said there had been no major reports of damage or injury made to his agency.
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Dana Felton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, said the storm ended up turning a little north and a little farther west than expected.
“That change in the track created a little bit lighter winds,” he said.
Felton said the storm was set to run into the middle of Vancouver Island.
Around 6 p.m., he said winds wouldn’t totally subside in the Pierce County area until later Saturday evening, but he said the storm was “about to be over” within a couple hours.
“It could have been worse, let’s put it that way,” he said.
The storm did leave some without power for stretches.
Tacoma Public Utilities reported around 3,000 people without power Saturday evening, including some from a downed tree on a power line. That number was reduced to about 600 later in the night. At one point, around 11,000 were without power.
The number of Puget Sound Energy customers without power in the evening appeared to be about 11,000.
Doug Adamson, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said a downed tree made the department close a ramp onto State Route 410 in the Sumner area until the storm calmed down, but otherwise had no reports of major storm-related problems.
“We remain on watch and remain actively responding to anything,” he said, later adding there were no reports of issues “that would be outside of the ordinary for this wind event.”
There were also reports of downed trees in the Olympia area.
The Puyallup Police Department and Gig Harbor Police Department had no storm-related incidents to report in the evening.
About 6 p.m., the Weather Service reported 1.16 inches of rain had been measured at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in the previous 24 hours. The storm had already brought record rainfall to Western Washington.
The rain and wind affected some area roads.
The county identified about 20 places where drivers should be cautious about water over the road or fallen trees, mostly in East Pierce County.
Other areas in the South Sound shut down as a safety precaution.
Metro Parks Tacoma on Saturday closed all of its parks until Sunday due to the storm conditions.
“This includes parks with no gates,” read a notice posted on the agency’s website.
Mount Rainier National Park closed the road to Sunrise and to Mowich Lake, but park officials expected other roads to stay open through the storm.
The storm even caused several high schools in Western Washington, including Rogers High School in Puyallup, to postpone homecoming dances due to safety concerns over the windstorm.
A few businesses in Tacoma closed early as the storm system approached. Ubiquitous Journey, a tea and spice shop on Sixth Avenue, announced on its Facebook page that it would reschedule an evening class because of the storm.
Haunted Hollow Halloween Store and Haunted Attractions in Freighthouse Square closed both the haunted house and store and urged its customers to stay safe.
Saturday’s storm is the second of two low-pressure systems to hit the Pacific Northwest since Wednesday, left over from Typhoon Songda near Guam.
It didn’t appear anyone in Pierce County was seriously injured as a result of the week’s stormy weather, but The Seattle Times reported Friday that a 4-year-old Seattle boy was hospitalized after he and his father were hit by a falling branch. A tree fell on a Whidbey Island man, who was also hospitalized.
While the storm appeared manageable in Pierce County, there were stronger winds closer to the coast. The National Weather Service reported gusts up to 62 miles per hour in Long Beach and 72 miles per hour close to Cape Disappointment.
The Coast Guard rescued a group of 40 children and six adults Friday who got stuck at a camp near Port Angeles after it lost power and trees fell and blocked roads, the Times reported.
The windstorm appeared to fall short of early predictions that it could be the most serious in the region since the Hanukkah Eve storm of December 2006, which brought gusts of 69 mph to the Sea-Tac Airport. That storm led to the death of more than a dozen people, some of who died from carbon monoxide poisoning after using grills and generators indoors, after the storm caused widespread power outages for more than a week.
Reporter Kate Martin contributed to this report.
Tacomans party on through storm
For many out and about on Saturday evening it was just a typical, blustery fall day in Western Washington.
The storm of the decade that wasn’t — at least in Tacoma — didn’t faze them.
More than a dozen showed at The Defiant Goldfish, a bar near the town of Ruston that had invited patrons to dine by candlelight at a “Stormageddon 2016” party, starting at 6 p.m. “until the power goes out.”
The weather was pleasant enough for a trio to recline in Adirondack chairs around an outdoor fire pit to enjoy the fall drizzle and watch the weather.
Another trio sat inside the candle-lit interior.
“We thought we might as well come watch (the weather from the Goldfish) than sit at home,” said Lori Shellman, 31. “These always get blown out of proportion. It gets windy in the fall. It rains. Welcome to Washington.”
She and her husband Eric, 29, were there to celebrate the fourth birthday of their daughter Audrey.
Adam Dopps, owner of The Defiant Goldfish, said the storm fizzled, as many do. A while later, a downpour soaked the area, instantly extinguished the fire pit and sent several people scrambling for cover.
Scorpion’s “Rock You Like a Hurricane” played on the bar’s radio.
Dopps said the deluge was “like a bucket of water to the face.”
It was the most excitement they had seen all night, he said.
Downtown at Odd Otter Brewing, a couple from Los Angeles had just arrived for their vacation to the Evergreen state. Brittany Arrona, 27, looked up from their beer sampler and said they hadn’t really heard about the storm on their 16-hour drive from Los Angeles.
“Our friends were worried about it but we’re not concerned,” said her husband Julio Sanchez, 33. “We like the rain. We don’t get it in LA”