Today in Seattle History: 1993 Inauguration Day storm ravages Puget Sound

HistoryLink.org Photo: BC Hydro workers assist Seattle City Light in clearing damage of Inaugural Day Storm, 1993 Courtesy Seattle City Light

SEATTLE — On the two-year anniversary of President Trump's inauguration, KIRO 7 looked into other memorable inauguration day moments in Washington state history.

On January 20, 1993, during the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton, a storm ravaged the Puget Sound. Six people died and hundreds of thousands lost power for days.

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The following is a recap of the event in a HistoryLink.org essay by David Wilma:

On January 20, 1993, an Inaugural Day storm with winds topping 94 mph ravages Puget Sound. Six people die and hundreds of thousands lose electric power for days. Only the Columbus Day storm of 1962 exceeds the violence of this event.

The storm was predicted the day before by the U.S. Weather service and was the result of a strong low-pressure rainstorm from the southwest moving north of Seattle. Winds and falling trees knocked out major transmission lines and other wires until more than 600,000 customers lost power.

Five days after the storm, tens of thousands of customers in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties were still without electricity. Seattle City Light took the unprecedented step of asking for help from other utilities. Thirteen crews from BC Hydro, Eugene Water & Electric Board, Chelan County Public Utilities District, and Grant County Public Utilities District traveled to Seattle to work with 40 City Light crews. The hardest hit utility was Puget Sound Power & Light, which had 500,000 customers in the dark, most of them in hard-to-serve rural areas. Three days later, the utility still had 59,000 residences and business without electricity.

Governor Mike Lowry (1939-2017) declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard to assist with relief efforts.

Deaths and Injuries

The following six people were killed in the Inaugural Day storm:

  • Patrick Moon, age 36, Kent, was struck by a tree as he was working to clear limbs that blocked the Maple Valley Highway.
  • Martha Babos, 53, Redmond, was struck by a tree while walking from her home to her garage.
  • An unidentified 53-year-old man in Coalfield near Newcastle died of a heart attack while he was clearing downed trees.
  • Charles D. Rolen, 19, Lynnwood, was killed when a tree fell on his car in Snohomish County.
  • Jeffrey Paulus, 3, Port Orchard, was struck by a falling tree.
  • Edwin Lackman, 32, Port Orchard, was electrocuted after a tree hit a power line near Gorst.

There were many injuries, including 15 persons treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. They had attempted to barbecue food with charcoal indoors or had run automobiles to stay warm while their power was out.

Both Lake Washington Floating Bridges were closed for a time. A state agency tallied 167 homes destroyed and 770 damaged. The City of Bellevue alone reported 100 homes destroyed and $1.5 billion in damage. Electrically powered sewage treatment systems failed and raw sewage flooded streets and waterways causing risks to health. The Red Cross opened 15 shelters.

Click here to read the essay on HistoryLink.org.

Bob Lane, "Next: Restoring Power To All, Tallying Damage," The Seattle Times, January 24, 1993, p. B-1; "Many Quick, Good Responses To Storm," Ibid., January 23, 1993, p. A-11; "Got A Light? Thousands Still Without, Damage Worse Than Expected," Ibid., p. A-1; Alex Tizon, "State Takes Stock Of Damage," Ibid., A-6; "Red Cross Offers Meals At 15 Shelters," Ibid., p. A-7; Wayne Wurzer, et al., "Wind-Battered Citizens Take Stock," Ibid., January 22, 1993, p. C-3; Dave Birkland, et al., "Some In Dark Until Sunday, Winds Lead to 6 Deaths, Emergency Declared," Ibid., January 21, 1993, p. A-1; "The Inaugural Nobody Saw," Network: Seattle City Light Employee Newsletter, Vol. 18, No. 4 (February 18, 1993), pp. 1-5.