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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Windstorm Leaves Big Cleanup Job In Its Wake

The lights are back on for many of those who lost power during the windstorm that walloped western Oregon and Washington Thursday night. But repair crews are still hard at work across the region.

The largest number of outages were in Puget Sound Energy territory. But the utility said the number of customers still without electricity is less than half what it was at the peak overnight.

In Olympia’s South Capitol neighborhood, there was a harrowing moment when a very large, sprawling tree fell across power lines and onto a car, knocking out the power in the residential neighborhood.

“It was a pretty loud shudder of the whole house because it pulled my lines off the side of my house,” said South Capitol resident Scott Freeman. “So, it yanked all the lines. I didn’t actually hear the tree go down, but the transformer exploded.”

When the tree fell it also snapped the top of a power pole and left it hanging precariously. Wires dangled in people’s front yards and the street was closed to traffic. A nearby school lost power as a result. The school remained open with emergency lighting, but parents were encouraged to pick-up their kids.

A Potelco crew was on the scene Friday morning getting a new power pole ready to be installed. After that crew got the equipment ready and the line crew was set to come in after them. A tree crew will also have to come in and get rid of the tree, so the whole process could take some time.

Mark Vosburg works for utility contractor Potelco. He said that he expects to work 39 hours on, have six off and then work another 18-hour shift.

“Once you’re out here and you’re out running around, you’re just awake,” Vosburg said.

Vosburg added that, unfortunately, his time of year is something the crews “look forward” to.

“For one thing we want to get people back as quickly as possible on power and then for another thing this is all double-time for us," he said. "It’s Christmas money.”

Restoration crews are benefiting from calmer weather forecast to last through the weekend.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."