Mighty wind whips region

May 26, 2003 12:00 am
Gusty wind topping at 84 miles per hour damaged six wagons at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center Saturday evening. The storm, which lasted approximately 30 minutes, knocked down trees and power lines, but no injuries were reported. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
Gusty wind topping at 84 miles per hour damaged six wagons at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center Saturday evening. The storm, which lasted approximately 30 minutes, knocked down trees and power lines, but no injuries were reported. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By MIKE FERGUSON

Of the Baker City Herald

It was anything but the perfect storm, but Saturday evening's fierce winds caused no injuries — just the loss of a few trees and power lines.

But it sure brought an abrupt halt to Flea Market activities in Sumpter — sort of.

Most vendors were forced to pack up their wares when winds, clocked at more than 60 mph in Baker City, ripped through the area.

When the power got knocked out at the Sumpter Nugget restaurant — and the generator failed two minutes later — about 50 customers remained to feast on prime rib and baked potatoes that had been prepared in advance, said owner Norma Rankin.

Those customers who stayed ate by candlelight until the food ran out. Rankin figures the storm cost her $1,500 worth of business.

"Nobody was upset," she said. "We had to close about 7:45 because we didn't have the grill or the French fryer."

But her crew still had clean-up chores, and power wasn't restored until about 1 a.m. The crew dutifully came in, cleaned the grills and the floor for about three hours — then opened for breakfast Sunday promptly at 6:30 a.m.

Business ever since "has been real good," she said.

Many Flea Market shoppers sought refuge in the Gold Post, said owner Terry Strimple. In that sense, it was good for business.

But calm skies Monday morning brought out even more business — enough to curtail a telephone interview.

"I've got a bunch of customers," she said. "Our party's not over yet."

Like so many Baker County residents and visitors, Sgt. Tim Fischer of the Baker County Sheriff's Department spent much of his Saturday in Sumpter. For the most part, the veteran lawman liked what he saw.

"The Flea Market has been very busy, but it's been real quiet, too," he said. "It's a good crowd. We haven't had any problems."

The biggest problem deputies faced as a result of the storm, he said, was a downed power line on Highway 203 near Sunnyslope. A vehicle drove into the downed line, but nobody was injured, Fischer said.

"Nobody got hurt, and the storm moved through quickly," he said.

But the high winds lingered long enough to knock down several trees in Baker City. John Martin returned from an outing Saturday to discover that his former tree — which had only minutes before been blocking Fourth Street — had been cut into sections and laid along the median in front of his house.

It wasn't city public works crews, he said, but rather good Samaritans with chainsaws, cruising around town looking for problem spots.

The tree narrowly missed falling on a car parked on the street, he said.