Staff photo/Cali Bagby

Unusual spring winds cause power outages on San Juan Island

Tuesday, May 23 was a sunny, spring day, but everyone on San Juan Island still lost power.

According to the National Weather Service website, sustained winds reached as high as 24 mph and gusts reached 49 mph. That was around 6 p.m. when about 6,000 islanders lost power.

This is unusual, according to Brendan Cowan, director the San Juan County/Town of Friday Harbor Department of Emergency Management.

“Most high winds come from late September to March,” he said.

By 8:20 p.m., OPALCO employees restored power for everyone who isn’t served by the Roche Harbor substation. It was restored for those patrons at 9 p.m.

“A tree fell into the transmission line near the Pear Point substation,” wrote OPALCO’s Public Relations Administrator Suzanne Olson to the Journal. That’s where power is delivered to the island through submarine cables.

According to Olson, strong winds can blow trees, located outside areas OPALCO employees can trim, into power lines.

“It’s the nature of living in such a beautiful, forested area,” wrote Olson.

OPALCO, or Orcas Power and Light Cooperative, is a nonprofit cooperative, jointly owned by its members, who use the electricity it provides to San Juan County. For more information, visit