March wind wreaks havoc on Key Pen and beyond


Danna Webster, KP News

One gust of wind snapped the poplar trees near the Victor public clamming tidelands. The trees landed on the only two vehicles in the parking lot. Photo by Danna Webster

March winds blew through turbulent weather patterns March 15. The day began with a heavy wet snow, which changed to hail, rain, sun breaks and sudden gusts of wind. By afternoon, many areas experienced power failures including a large portion of the Key Peninsula.

That Sunday afternoon, Eric Lausch parked his blue Ford Explorer at the state tidelands clamming park in Victor. It was one of many visits he had made to the area from his home in Auburn.  A short time later, Chris Mikika, from University Place, parked his white Chevrolet Scottsdale pickup truck beside the Explorer.

It was his first time to dig clams at Victor. With only two vehicles in the parking lot, it looked promising that the men and their friends would fill their clam and oyster limits and be home in time to cook them for supper. However, by the time their clam buckets were full; neither man had a vehicle capable of driving him home.

Salvaging clothes and coolers from their smashed Ford Explorer, Carol Ross and Eric Lausch, from Auburn, are happy no one was sitting in either vehicle that was crushed by poplar trees in the Victor public clamming tidelands parking lot. Photo by Danna Webster

It happened in a matter of a few minutes after Mikika left his truck. As the clammers began filling their buckets, a wayward southwest wind kicked up overturning their buckets and chilling the diggers to the bone.

One of Laucsh’s friends, Chuck Eng said, “I heard a thud.” He told Lausch it sounded like a tree came down where their car was parked. The clamming party scrambled back up the path to the parking lot. The sight that met their eyes was difficult for them to believe. The two vehicles in the parking lot were smashed and buried under a tangle of trunks and limbs of poplar trees.

Mason County rescue received the call for help and were at the scene in short order with tow trucks, rescue vehicles and chainsaws. They expertly cut the trees off the vehicles and were gratified to find no occupants inside. Lausch’s friend, Carol Ross, was grateful that she had changed her mind, minutes earlier, about sitting in the Explorer to get out of the cold wind. Her thoughts went immediately to the close call for the party in the white Chevrolet truck.

“They just got here. It’s a wonder they weren’t in theirs,” Ross said.

Both parties opted to finish digging clams while they waited for rescue service. They all filled their limits. Before the vehicles were towed away, the contents in the trucks were removed and piled beside the buckets of clams and oysters.

As Lausch surveyed the salvage, shovels and buckets of shellfish he said, “Most expensive oysters I ever had.”