Wind snaps 90-foot flagpole in two; pole misses 1850s American Camp officers' quarters

High winds knocked down 90-foot garrison flagpole at American Camp, late Nov. 18.
High winds knocked down 90-foot garrison flagpole at American Camp, late Nov. 18. 'The pole had been returned to working order at great expense last summer after more than a year,' National Park chief of interpretation Mike Vouri said.
— image credit: San Juan Island National Historical Park

San Juan Island National Historical Park's 90-foot flagpole at American Camp was snapped in half late Nov. 18 as winds gusting to 80 mph swept the San Juan Islands in northwest Washington, downing trees and cutting power to thousands of residents.

The pole missed the 1856-vintage officers' quarters, one of the oldest existing wooden structures on San Juan Island, once occupied by George E. Pickett of American Civil War fame.

The National Weather Service has forecast continued high winds with at least two major events expected in the next 48 hours. Park maintenance crews are at work clearing downed trees and securing the park's six historic structures.

The pole, which flies a 12 by 25-foot U.S. flag during summer months, had been returned to working order at great expense in June after being inoperable for more than a year. The pole is a replica of one that towered over American Camp during the joint military occupation of the island with the British Royal Marines from 1860 to 1874. It also was used as a watch tower during the American Civil War when American Camp stood sentinel on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the approach to Puget Sound.

The park in 2005 replaced the upper spar, but in 2008 a defective pulley necessitated cutting the halyard, which could not be replaced until 2009 when the grounds could accommodate a mobile crane.

The park also in June 2009 installed a 35-foot Hudson's Bay Company flagpole — about a hundred yards south — to replace an 74-foot pole that had been snapped off 12 feet above ground during a similar windstorm in 2003. The new pole has thus far withstood the weather.

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