Ten days after a massive early morning explosion destroyed three buildings on North Bend Way and damaged several nearby homes and businesses, drivers still slow in the adjacent roundabout to see the rubble pile where livelihoods and future plans stood – until 3:40AM, April 25th. The event will likely forever be etched in memory.
Some business owners are traumatized. Some are working to reopen or relocate. Nearby residents are repairing homes.
Community members will most likely always remember that sound; how bad it was; how far the debris stretched. At the same time, the community will probably also be grateful. Grateful because as bad as it was, it could have been so much worse had the clock said 3:40PM instead of 3:40AM.
Buildings Lost, Community Response
Gone is the home to 30 years of barbershop haircuts at Last Cut East, with only a charred shell of the distinctive building now standing. Also gone is the home to a future Snoqualmie Valley restaurant, with thousands of dollars poured into the renovation of lifelong dream. In response, a North Bend Explosion Relief Fund has been set up at the North Bend Opus Bank branch at 139 Bendigo Blvd N. Donations should be made in the fund’s name.
Gone is the home of the recently renovated Point Dance Center, a performing studio for dancers right in the midst of a competitive season. But the girls are still dancing. They’re just now practicing at the Snoqualmie Valley YMCA, which offered performing space until Point Dance Center can figure out how to rebuild. An online fundraiser has been set up to help the business owner and longtime Valley resident.
Gone is the home to Kutters Beauty Shop, where Shelley Gildersleeve’s hair business was located. Within hours of the explosion, though, Beth Anderson, owner of Another Hair Place, contacted Shelley and offered her a new home just up the road.
Shelley’s friends, family and neighbors donated the funds needed to restock hair supplies, and as of Tuesday, April 29th, Shelley was back in business at Another Hair Place, directly behind Pioneer Coffee and the North Bend Theatre. As all of Shelley’s appointment books, along with client contact information, were destroyed in the explosion, clients are encouraged to contact Shelley at 425-888-4211.
Business Life Slowly Returning
Monday, May 5th, saw gas pumps once again functioning at the 76 station. If not for a quick-thinking employee who hit the gas pumps’ off button seconds after the massive explosion, along with off-duty and volunteer firefighters who backfilled and protected the station, the destruction in downtown North Bend could have been much worse.
Les Schwab Tires is still working to reopen. All of its service bays were severely damaged in the blast. Bay doors buckled, forced inward and many windows shattered by the direct force of the nearby suspected natural gas explosion.
A Les Schwab employee said they’re aiming to reopen Monday, May 12, 2014, and get back to serving the community.
Damage in the Aftermath
Next to Les Schwab, Red Oak Assisted Living Home still has windows boarded up. Across the street at the Mount Si Court Apartments, where numerous units were recently rebuilt after a 2011 fire, building inspectors evacuated several units for safety concerns. Inspectors also issued ‘limited access’ to other apartment complex tenants, as well as surrounding businesses.
Numerous North Bend residents reported damage to their homes, even blocks away from the explosion. Windows were shattered, garage doors broken, interior contents knocked from cupboards and shelves. One resident reported a home near the blast site was knocked from its foundation.
A press release stated many residents were contacting the City of North Bend, asking whom to contact with ensuing insurance claims. According to the release, Traveler’s Insurance is covering the buildings involved in the blast, but they are unable to process any claims until the explosion investigation is concluded. In the meantime, the city is encouraging affected homeowners to file claims with their insurance companies, adding Traveler’s Liablity Claim no. EOC2415 to incident.
From the City of North Bend: “Although it will take time for our community to recover from the significant property damage suffered as a result of the blast, we are grateful that only two minor injuries were reported among our citizens.”
[Special thanks to Bev Jorgensen, and her amazing Snoqualmie Valley community spirit, in helping to write this piece.]