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Storm wrecks havoc in Libby

| July 20, 2007 12:00 AM

By ERIKA KIRSCH Western News Editor

Not only was one of Libby's landmarks destroyed, the Libby Drive-In Theatre, but several houses were wracked with destruction as well. Elaine Howard, who is renting a home on Parmenter Drive was in her house at the time of the storm when a tree fell on her roof. "I heard it coming down," she said. "And you know it scared the daylights out of me.

"Two men helped remove the tree limbs from her roof and chainsawed them into pieces. The Woodway Park area was badly hit, with several limbs and trees strewn throughout yards and roads. At 506 Granite Ave. a tree narrowly missed hitting an unoccupied home. The owner of the home, Jerry Hayes, was out of town. The full-size tree was uprooted and fell on a telephone line landing in the Hayes' front yard, just missing the home. A brick ring around the trunk of the tree was also uprooted. Power was out in the west side of town and the traffic lights at the intersection of Highway 2 and Indian Head Road were not functioning. Vehicles were also getting stuck at the construction site between Libby and Kalispell. A tractor trailer became stuck on in the area at 1:24 a.m. on Thursday and jackknifed, according to scanner traffic.

The city of Troy received a hail storm and high winds, according to Sandi Sullivan, customer service representative at the Troy City Hall. "It rained rather quickly," she said. It rained enough to run over the streets, she added. There was a thunder and lightning shower that added to the workload for the U.S. Forest Service Three Rivers Ranger District in Troy.

There were seven confirmed fires from Tuesday evening's storm and reports concerning fires from Wednesday's storms were "non-stop rolling in this morning," said Chad Pickering, Three Rivers Ranger District field specialist. "They're all from the lightning." All crew members from the Three Rivers Ranger District, approximately 30 in all, are out in the field working to contain the fires, Pickering explained. The Yaak region was the hardest hit concerning fire starts. "We're pretty tapped out," he said. Approximately 25 fire starts occurred from the Tuesday evening storm in the Kootenai National Forest District, according to Steve Lefever, lead initial attack responder at the Kootenai National Forest Supervisor's Office in Libby. As of press time, crews were looking for 10 additional fire starts in the region and fielding more calls from observers for additional fire starts. "We're expecting much more," Lefever continued. "We're out looking right now. The last storm was wide spread.

"The storm path went straight up Libby, in the Fisher River area, up throught the Yaak and then toward the Fortine area, Lefever explained. Wolf Creek was also badly hit. "Everything but Trout Creek got nailed," he said. Crews have used two helicopters, detection planes to identify lightning strikes and a single-engine air tanker from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho to identify and fight fires in the Yaak. All fires have been relatively small, Lefever said. The largest thus far was 2 1/2-3 acres in the Barren Creek area on the west side of the reservoir. Libby city crews have been working steadfastly to repair the damage caused by the storm and to attempt to restore power to all citizens. Trees were down on powerlines all over town, especially in the Cabinet Heights area near the golf course, according to Libby Mayor Tony Berget. Crews have been removing debris from city streets and a Cottenwood tree was destroyed at the end of Mineral Avenue, "but we were planning on taking it out anyway," Berget mentioned. There was more damage out in the county, Berget added. Several trees fell on power lines and pulled up tin and metal from homes. Crews will continue cleaning the city and fielding more calls of damage. A semi was flipped over in the Pamida parking lot and a section of fence was bent over at the baseball field, he said. Crews were out until 1 a.m. clearing roads and attempting to restore power to make sure things were as ready as possible for Thursday morning, Berget said. Libby Volunteer Assistant Fire Chief Bill Watt reported 37 reports within the city, county and out of the district due to Wednesday's storm activity. Calls began coming in at 8:28 p.m. on Wednesday and crews finally called it a night at about 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, Watt said. The Boy Scout Camp on Melita Island, on Flathead Lake, experienced some high winds on Wednesday. Some trees were blown down and some tents were damaged, but all scouts, leaders and staff are fine. The local Sheriff's office had contacted the camp director prior to the high winds hitting the island, so staff and leaders knew of the impending storm. If parents have any questions, call Case Haslam at 406-670-5275.