14 trees in Point Defiance Park toppled by 60-70 mph gusts

TACOMA, Wash. -- More than a dozen trees were toppled by 60-70 mph winds during a storm cell in Tacoma's Point Defiance Park Thursday.

Large spruce and maple trees were flattened. At least one tree was snapped in half by the force of the storm. The park's Native Garden remained closed Friday as crews used chainsaws to clean up the damage.

"It's usually pretty mild. We don't get winds like this very often," said lifelong Tacoma resident Liz Leines of the storm. "I commented to my husband that (Thursday night's storm) seemed really different."

"I noticed outside that the trees were whirling around rather than being directional," added Leines, who lives nearby. "We have an old house. You could almost hear it coming through the windows."

The National Weather Service office in Seattle sent a storm team to survey the damage and determined the winds were not caused by a tornado. Instead, they were straight-line wind gusts from the southwest estimated to be between 60-70 mph. Damage began at the southwest corner of the park and continued northeast toward Pt. Defiance Marina.

"The pattern of downed trees was sporadic...and fell in a direction indicating southwest winds," the NWS wrote in its storm survey. "There was also damage to tree limbs and a wooden fence."

A volunteer who lives in the park lost his chimney in the storm, said Metro Parks spokeswoman Nancy Johnson. She said the worst of the damage was in the park's bowl area, just beyond the zoo.

"It's safe to say (the trees) are decades old. They've been a part of parks landscape for years," Johnson added.