Storm causes fire, power outages and school closures in Thurston County

Fallen trees and downed power lines wreaked havoc in Thurston County on Thursday night, with the effects of the storm lasting well into Friday.

Many neighborhoods had minimal damage — leaf-strewn lawns and small branches scattered on the sidewalks — while others endured long power outages and school closures.

According to Puget Sound Energy, 246,000 customers were affected by power outages in Western Washington. Lacey, Yelm and south Thurston County were among the areas hardest hit, as were Kingston, Hansville, South Whidbey Island, Woodinville and Bothell.

Strong winds caused a fire Thursday night when a tree fell onto a large propane tank at the Nisqually Red Wind Casino. No one was injured, and the Lacey Fire Department was able to control the blaze with the help of neighboring departments.

Firefighters responded to the fire about 9 p.m. after a tree fell onto a 8,000 gallon propane tank and damaged some pipes, said Gary Pearson, deputy chief of operations for the Lacey Fire Department.

“The tree hit those pipes, and they ignited,” Pearson said. “When our crews got there, we had a large fire going on the propane tank.

The casino was evacuated, and no one was injured.

Pearson said firefighters were worried that the tank itself would catch fire, and called in neighboring departments to help.

“If a tank like that caught on fire, that could be catastrophic,” Pearson said.

Firefighters extinguished the fire about midnight, and the gas company arrived on scene to inspect the tank, which wasnt significantly damaged, according to the Fire Department.

None of the casino’s structures were damaged, Pearson said.

Firefighters left the scene about 1 a.m.

Casino manager Cheebo Frazier said in a news release that the casino re-opened at 8 a.m. She thanked emergency responders, employees and guests for handling the event safely.

“We are deeply appreciative of the response provided by Lacey Fire Department 3,” Frazier, said. “Casino guests and our team members were evacuated quickly, and every precaution was taken to ensure their safety and that of the public in the area surrounding Red Wind.”

A toppled tree in Olympia’s South Capitol neighborhood downed power lines and trapped a car parked in front of a home. Car owner Rob Preston said he was inside watching TV when he heard the tree fall about 10 p.m.

“It was probably the last breath of the storm,” Preston said. “We heard a large boom, saw a flash, and the power was out.”

The Hyundai Accent didn’t suffer too much damage — just some small scratches. Preston said he’ll miss the old dogwood tree, and because the tree was growing on his property, he’ll be responsible for removing it.

But there’s an upside: His house will get more sun.

A few blocks down the road from Preston’s house, Lincoln Elementary School lost power about 8:15 a.m., but the Olympia School District didn’t initially cancel school. At 10:45 a.m., the district contacted parents asking them to pick up their children.

“If you can come and get your child from school, we encourage you to do so. If you cannot do so, that is OK too; we want to assure you your child is in a safe environment with emergency lighting and bathrooms,” the email read.

The electricity came on a few minutes after the email was sent out.

District spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said that any students who hadn’t been picked up could finish out the school day, and parents who had picked up their students didn’t need to bring them back.

In Olympia, L.P. Brown Elementary was closed due to power outages, as was Bush Middle School in Tumwater. The entire Yelm School District was closed.