Eastern Washington’s ubiquitous Ponderosa Pines came crashing down all around us and even upon us on Jan. 13th, taking power away from 100,000 customers, crushing houses and cars, causing two deaths and thinning the heavily wooded golf courses at Downriver and Indian Canyon in Spokane.
A woman driving to work was killed when a falling tree crushed her car on Spokane’s South Hill. A Coeur d’Alene man died in an accident attempting to avoid debris on a roadway.
Scores of the big pines fell at Downriver and Indian Canyon; scores more, perhaps hundreds more, fell at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course and the Coeur d’Alene public course.
“It could have been a lot worse at our courses,” said Spokane Golf Manager Mark Poirier. “The tree that came down alongside the clubhouse at Downriver missed the main part of the clubhouse by just a couple feet.”
That tree barely clipped the roof over the clubhouse entry. Several others fell across the first tee and close to the putting green, another that had been alongside the first tee dropped into the parking lot.
Wind gusts rolled through at up to 71 miles per hour, sustained winds of 55-65 mph continued through the early- and mid-morning hours.
Head PGA Professional Andy Mackimmie at the Coeur d’Alene Resort estimated some 200 trees were damaged or destroyed.
“One of them fell right at our gated front entrance,” Mackimmie said. “We couldn’t even get onto the property for two days. But we will be going all out to restore everything. We’re still set on opening April 1st.”
Clean-up at Indian Canyon (one tree fell lengthwise across the second tee box) and Downriver is also well underway. The Creek at Qualchan was affected to a lesser degree.
“Some of these logs will go to mills,” Poirier said. “That will give us some chance to recover expenses. And some of it will be cut up for firewood and donated to local charities.”
The mess came as something of a “perfect storm” – well-watered ground allows trees easy access to water and, therefore, shallow root systems. The mild winter contributed, as ground remains soft and unfrozen, and in many areas of Spokane, soil is shallow above the basalt bedrock.
With a very mild winter nearing its end, courses in Spokane and across Eastern Washington are expected to open in a few weeks.
- Bob Bostwick