Trees fall as 70- to 100-mph winds blow through Corbett

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Carnetta Boyd stands between a decades-old tree that fell victim to fierce East Winds off the historic highway in Corbett.People in Corbett are saying it is one of the East Wind's most brutal years.

“It's horrendous,” said Carnetta Boyd, a 14-year resident of the area whose house off the historic highway sits exposed to 100-mph winds whipping off cliffs in the Columbia River Gorge.

Last week, high winds sent an 80-foot tree that once tethered a house to the hillside tumbling across the highway near Boyd's home.

Up the way at Crown Point, cyclists and residents have recorded the strongest winds blowing at 108 mph and up to 122 mph.

“I've never been afraid of wind before,” said Boyd, who is also a member of the local Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, a citizen group trained to help out in the case of disasters.

Until she watched the recently-replaced glass windows she had leaning up against the side of her house come rolling across the yard and shatter on behalf of what she described as a cyclonic whirlwind.

Boyd said it's common for Corbett to have 70- to 80-mph gusts around five to six times a year. The 100-mph winds don't last very long, she added

“Corbett trees are used to East Winds,” she said. But this winter, Boyd added, “Everywhere you go, you can see limbs down and trees down that have been there for eons.”

Had it rained before the horrific winds, Boyd said the town would have lost more trees on shiftier, wetter grounds.

Following a monthly safety meeting, Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy Joe Graziano showed a picture on his phone of a downed tree blocking a busload of Corbett students on Curtis Road.

Corbett's district fire chief, Phil Dearixon, has asked locals to watch out for limbs and branches flying out of trees.

Earlier in the season, fire crews responded to a call of a young boy out of Latourell Falls who had been smacked in the head by a falling tree branch. Luckily, the boy was not seriously injured, Dearixon said.

Trees blown down in the wind have also taken out a number of power lines, the fire chief said.

A couple of weeks ago, volunteer crews responded to a house fire on Larch Mountain Road that was started when the wind picked up a pile of ashes, which had been dumped outside from a wood stove.

“Those ashes can be hot for days,” Dearixon said.

Mix ashes with dry weather and a little kindling, and you've got a fire.

"We get our more serious brush fires in the winter, when the grass and leaves dry out," Dearixon said.

Unusually dry and windy conditions fanned more than a dozen wildfires on the Oregon coast this winter.

A lack of rain has caused some areas of the state to be concerned about drought and the possibility of a bad fire season this summer.

But for now, locals are just plain tired of the dry, cold winds.

“It's horrible out there,” said a man coming into the Corbett Country Market from the blustery cold. The woman behind the counter was wearing a warm jacket and wool beanie, her hands chapped red.

“We've had a couple days without wind,” Boyd said. “But now they're saying it's coming back.”

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