June 01, 2001 11:00 pm
WATCH FOR FALLING TREES: Kory Vaughn of Charter Cable examines the damage caused by a tree that fell onto Paul Sieders' car at First and Adams, taking out the cable line with it. (The Observer/ERIN PHILLIPS).
WATCH FOR FALLING TREES: Kory Vaughn of Charter Cable examines the damage caused by a tree that fell onto Paul Sieders' car at First and Adams, taking out the cable line with it. (The Observer/ERIN PHILLIPS).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Roads closed, businesses shut down, bricks flew, power went out and trees fell.

But overall, Friday afternoons powerful winds caused no serious injuries and a remarkably limited amount of property damage.

Many people across Union County experienced outages, while some in La Grande and the High Valley area had no electricity for almost 18 hours.

A small neighborhood area along Fourth Street in La Grande, including The Observer building, saw the lights blink off at 3:48 p.m. Power was restored just before 10 this morning. A tree fell on Fourth Street, across from The Observer, causing the outage.

Little information, except the general area of outages, was available from Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative this morning, as supervisors were working with repair crews, and OTEC spokesman Steve Schauer was in Washington, D.C., for meetings.

The National Weather Service in Pendleton reported wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph late Friday afternoon, along with thunderstorms on the east side of the Blue Mountains.

Jan Michel of Cove was in the La Grande Public Library when the tree on Fourth Street fell. The tree tore down power lines around the library, which soon closed.

Michel found the downed power lines made the trip to her vehicle risky, but

La Grande police officers were soon on hand to assist her.

Paul Sieders, who lives near First Street and Adams Avenue, wasnt quite as lucky. His daughter called him Friday afternoon when she came home from school to report that a tree in the front yard was now partially on a family car.

The tree brought down two power poles and their electrical lines. By late afternoon, the poles were leaning over the street.

The situation led to a radio warning Friday afternoon for people to avoid downtown La Grande where tree branches were blowing, power lines were swinging, and, along Fir Street near the railroad tracks, bricks were blowing off the top of a building and hitting nearby parked cars.

Another large tree split and fell at a recently vacated home at the corner of Grandy and Cedar streets.

Some areas were spared damage.

While Island City experienced high winds during its annual Hog Wild Days celebration, the power remained on and the Lions Club was able to move its Friday evening pork barbecue into the school.

While those in La Grande appeared to take the brunt of the storm, it wasnt a good afternoon to be out driving in the valley.

Visibility was near zero along Highway 237 and Hunter Road at about 4 p.m. because of blowing dust. Both roads were reportedly briefly closed.

The rough weather, a meteorologist at the Pendleton weather station said, occurred because of a combination of


Winds in the Grande Ronde Valley, she said, were already blowing at nearly 20 mph as a warm thermal trough system began pushing southeast after sitting in the region for several days.

On its heels was what the Weather Service called a real vigorous cold front, which moved in and pushed the thermal trough closer to the ground.

It made for a tight surface pressure gradient, the meteorologist said.

The result was strong, gusty winds and rapidly dropping temperatures.

The cold system, an upper atmosphere trough, should stay in place today and through Sunday, the Weather Service is predicting, which should cause locally breezy conditions but not a return of the violent winds.

The cool temperatures, though, are not expected to bring much, if any, precipitation.

The why of the weather wasnt of huge interest though to those having to deal with it Friday afternoon.

By the time the weather systems had collided in Union County, some of their fury was spent.

Wallowa County didnt report any outages this morning, although a power pole along Crow Creek Road fell and several trees were being removed after falling across the Imnaha highway.