LAKE WENATCHEE — So much snow has fallen since last month’s damaging winter storm that it takes a closer look to spot some of the problems that linger for residents in Lake Wenatchee and Plain areas.
A blanket of snow covers trees that still lay on the roofs of homes, garages and outbuildings. Tarps stick out from the snow, protecting damaged roofs that likely won’t be fixed until spring.
Huge piles of plowed snow hide the hundreds of trees that have been cut out of roadways and pushed aside. The piles are laced with strings of downed power lines and fiber-optics cable. The jagged stumps of broken power poles stand alongside their replacements.
“This was like a battle zone through here,” said Lake Wenatchee resident George Wilson as he drove along the south shore Tuesday. The area was one of the hardest hit by a Dec. 16-17 storm that dumped 15 inches of heavy, wet snow one day followed by up to a foot more the next day, which knocked down thousands of trees between Stevens Pass and the Chumstick Valley north of Leavenworth.
He pointed out a tree resting on a neighborhood’s house, another home with several holes punched into the roof by a tree, and yet another lakefront house that may have to be completely rebuilt.
“There was a nice BMW parked here that was totally destroyed by a tree,” he said.
Dr. Stuart Freed’s south shore vacation home was grazed by one tree during the storm and took a direct hit from a second, much larger tree a couple days later, he said Tuesday. The 100-foot-tall Douglas fire “split my roof in half,” said Freed, medical director at Wenatchee Valley Medical Center.
The vacation home that has been in his family since 1960 will have to be largely rebuilt.
The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office has documented 50 homes and outbuildings that were damaged by trees in the storm. But that number will likely go up, since many remote vacation homes won’t be accessible until spring.
Like many area residents who have been living with on-again, off-again power problems, no water at times, and the threat of falling trees, Wilson now carries a chainsaw and a set of snowshoes in his vehicle.
As a volunteer firefighter and administrator of an online information site for the Lake Wenatchee area, he knows where most of the damage can be found.
Lake Wenatchee State Park was hit hard by the storm, its entrance blocked Tuesday by a line of Chelan County PUD rigs. Power had been out to a large area since Monday and they were searching for and fixing problems.
Closer to Plain, along Shugart Flats Road, Jan Hudson was putting away Christmas decorations in her log home while her husband, Mike, was assessing damage at a neighbor’s house.
Three dozen trees fell on the Hudson’s property, hitting every one of their buildings. One fell across their house and put five holes in the roof, which will have to be replaced. Two branches still jut through the ceiling into a second-story hallway.
“It sounded like an explosion when it came down,” Jan Hudson said.
Five more trees came down across their detached garage, while others hit their green house, outhouse and well house. Much of the damage has not yet been assessed.
“I’m not sure what we did to make somebody mad, but we sure got it,” Mike Hudson said.
The Hudsons were without power or water for several days, and so melted snow and cooked food on their wood stove.
Mike Hudson, who is manager of the Wenatchee-Chiwawa Irrigation District, said about 300 trees have fallen across the ditch and have likely damaged it.
“The debris pickup in the spring is going to be horrendous,” he added.
Hudson has been helping other residents remove fallen trees from their homes. He said he stood on a bed in one home to help remove large branches from a tree that destroyed a roof along Brae Burn Road.
Several homes on that road still have trees resting on them.
Buck Maupin showed off his heavily damaged storage shed on Tuesday. A large tree uprooted and smashed to the ground with such force that tools and other items exploded out of the shed, he said.
He was home with his wife and two visiting daughters when the tree came down in the early morning hours after the storm.
“My wife thought it was an earthquake,” he said.
Their home was without power for nine days and had no water for 12 days. They melted snow and cooked on a propane stove.
Many area residents are already making plans for being even more prepared for the next damaging storm in an area that is known for hard winters.
The Hudsons said they will buy a bigger generator and stock up on more gas and diesel. They also need a longer set of jumper cables, Mike Hudson said.
Wilson said he also plans to buy a bigger generator, but one that runs on propane instead of gas.
As he drove along South Shore Road, Wilson spotted trees and large branches that had just fallen in the last day or two.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot,” he said.
Despite the widespread damage and ongoing power and other problems, Freed said he and other area residents are fortunate.
“The real tragic thing is that two people were killed and three others were seriously injured when a tree crashed down on their car on Highway 2,” he said. “Sure I’m disappointed that I have to rebuild my house. But nobody in my family was hurt. You really have to keep perspective.”
“We are truly blessed to live in this beautiful place with all these trees and mountains and all this snow,” he added. “But it comes with some risks.”
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152