Nisqually earthquake anniversary jolts memories

February 22, 2011

Issaquah is more prepared now than during 2001 roller

Then-Skyline High School senior Sean Edwards (left) and then-4-year-old sister Quinn leaned over to look inside the cracked asphalt Feb. 28, 2001, as dad Maury looks along a crack in the 1400 block of East Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast. File

The ground started to shake as Bret Heath stood upstairs at the old municipal public works office — the steel-frame and metal-clad structure used nowadays as the parks department maintenance facility — and in seconds, the building rolled, like a ship tossed on ocean swells.

“I remember thinking, ‘I wonder if this building is going to hold together,’” the longtime Public Works Operations and emergency management director said.

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Schools learned lessons from Nisqually earthquake

February 22, 2011

Kathy Connally remembers sitting at her classroom desk, looking out the window at the students playing during recess, when the earth started shaking 10 years ago.

Her Discovery Elementary School second-grade students were in music class with a teacher who was eighth months pregnant.

“My first through was, ‘Oh my gosh, my kids are out in a portable at music where there are no desks,’” Connally said.

Issaquah High School students waited for more than an hour on the school's football field Feb. 28, 2001, after the Nisqually earthquake. File

She took cover under her desk, and then ran to the portable, where “My students were all safe and sound. They had stopped, dropped and covered.”

The entire school headed away from the building toward the field, where teachers released students if their parents had come to collect them, and then released the rest at the regular bell time.

“One of my students came back and said, ‘Was that a drill or was that for real?’” Connally said.

At Liberty High School, the earthquake happened during lunch, when some upperclassmen were off campus eating at restaurants. After the quake, students reported to their first period class on football field where teaches took attendance.

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Man takes to Web to retrieve stolen guns, belongings

February 22, 2011

Zack Judson hoped to settle in the Seattle area after escaping the hustle and bustle of Southern California.

Instead, a criminal or criminals in Issaquah stole the U-Haul truck carrying his possessions — including numerous handguns and rifles, plus ammunition.

In the days after the heist, Judson launched a website — — and started broadcasting updates about the case on Facebook and Twitter. Now, the Santa Monica transplant is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible.

“I have little confidence that I’ll get any of my stuff back,” he said late last week. “I have high confidence that, with the help of this Seattle area community, we might be able to catch the people who did it and prevent them from committing another crime.”

Issaquah Police Department Detective Sgt. Kevin Nash praised Judson for sharing details in order to help solve the case.

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Applied Precision pioneers technology to fight disease

February 22, 2011

The cutting-edge technology to help scientists decipher AIDS, cancer and other diseases is manufactured in Issaquah.

The biomedical imaging systems company Applied Precision supplies high-end and high-tech microscopes and other equipment to pharmaceutical giants, medical research institutes and universities, including the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

 Tony Kreipe, an applications scientist at Applied Precision in Issaquah, confirms the light path alignment, resolution and contrast specifications on one of the company’s Delta Vision Elite with TruLight optical microscopes. By Greg Farrar

Applied Precision relies on about 130 employees to churn out breakthrough after breakthrough from a little more than 50,000 square feet along 12th Avenue Northwest in the business district.

“We think it’s really important for the U.S. not just to be a service industry,” Joe Victor, president and CEO — and a longtime employee — said late last week. “We need to be designers and manufacturers of things as well. We’re proud to be a designer and manufacturer of equipment, half of which is exported around the world.”

Issaquah Chamber of Commerce leaders singled out in the company in the recent Innovation in Issaquah contest.

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Schools prepare for children of Passage Point residents

February 22, 2011

With the YWCA’s Passage Point scheduled to open in June, its neighbors in the southern part of the Issaquah School District are working to learn as much as they can about the facility before its inaugural day.

About 10 people came to the YWCA Passage Point Community Open House Feb. 9 at Maple Hills Elementary School, some carrying lists of questions they could ask YWCA representatives, King County project managers and school district administrators.

YWCA Case Manager Miesha Phillips (left) answers questions from Deena Rataezyk, Debra Hawkins and Joanna Hodgson at the Passage Point community open house. By Laura Geggel

Passage Point allows the YWCA to provide housing for men and women recently released from incarceration who wish to reunite with their children. The residents of Passage Point will have access to housing, employment and counseling services.

“It’s going to be geared toward a certain population that wants to change,” YWCA Case Manager Miesha Phillips said.

She and other administrators answered questions about Passage Point’s rules and services.

Deena Rataezyk learned that any Passage Point residents who register to volunteer with the district will have to go through a standard Washington State Patrol background check.

Nick LaCaze asked if teachers were ready to teach children living at Passage Point, given that some of them might need extra support at school, and Rataezyk asked if the schools would have additional mental health resources.

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Steve Birdsall, beloved Maple Hills Elementary School teacher, dies

February 22, 2011

Maple Hills Elementary School teacher Steve Birdsall, known for his Hawaiian shirts and hiking, died Feb. 18 after an illness. He was 52.

“In his 23 years in the Issaquah School District, Mr. Birdsall touched the lives of countless students, parents and staff members,” Maple Hills Principal Monique Beane wrote in an e-mail to parents the day he died.

Steve Birdsall, Maple Hills Elementary fifth-grade teacher, in June 2010 prepared for medical leave after a 23-year career in the Issaquah School District — 22 of those years spent at Maple Hills. By Greg Farrar

Birdsall took a medical leave in 2010 after the disease he and his doctors were fighting — multiple system atrophy — took its toll on his body.

Multiple system atrophy is a rare condition with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. MSA patients have widespread damage to a part of the nervous system that controls important functions, including heart rate, blood pressure and sweating.

In an interview with The Issaquah Press in June, Birdsall said he participated in clinical studies for the disease in hopes that a better treatment would be available to future MSA patients.

Beane recalled how Birdsall introduced himself and continued working despite his illness when she started working at Maple Hills in 2007.

“He was good to me, as a first year principal,” she said. “He was honest. He would send me e-mails if I made a good decision and send me e-mails if he thought I needed to think about something. He helped me grow as a professional.”

Birdsall was married to Polly Vaughn and had two teenage children, Madison and Kellen Birdsall.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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Joshua Schaer announces City Council re-election bid

February 22, 2011

Incumbent Joshua Schaer announced plans last week to run for a second term, setting off the campaign season for City Council seats.

The candidate highlighted environmental accomplishments in the announcement, including a first-on-the-Eastside food-packaging ordinance and polystyrene container ban.

“Shaping the future of our community is a great honor,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to another four years of creating practical solutions, while continuing to advocate for fiscal responsibility.”

Joshua Schaer

Schaer drafted and shepherded the food-packaging ordinance to fruition throughout 2009. Though the measure initially raised concerns about cost among local restaurateurs, the compliance date in October 2010 passed quietly.

The first-term councilman also leads the Council Transportation Committee and serves as the Issaquah representative to the Eastside Transportation Partnership, a regional group responsible for road and transit issues.

In recent months, as the transportation committee and the seven-member council tackled Newport Way Northwest upgrades, Schaer has been critical of the effort to remake a section of the road near the Bellevue city line and a separate proposal to widen the street near Issaquah Valley Elementary School.

In addition to Schaer’s post, the council seats held by Council President John Traeger and Councilman Fred Butler appear on the November ballot.

Candidates must file to run in Issaquah and other races by June 10. Schaer is the only council candidate so far.

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Issaquah School District uses scorecard to track progress

February 22, 2011

Every day, teachers grade students on their work and class participation. Now, Issaquah School District administrators are grading the district with an annual progress report called a scorecard.

District administrators have worked on designing the scorecard website since spring 2010, and the Issaquah School Board approved the scorecard layout and content at its Jan. 26 meeting. The site — accessible from — will be launched either this spring or fall.

“We do very extensive and comprehensive monitoring around our ends policies and we thought the scorecard was a good means of doing that,” school board President Jan Woldseth Colbrese said.

The scorecard will measure about 20 milestones using data from standardized tests, the Healthy Youth Survey, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, and community polls administered by the district.

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Issaquah woman reclaims life after Interstate 90 crash

February 22, 2011

Rachel McNaul (above), almost fully recovered from being almost killed by another driver in a 2009 accident, is once again able to get behind the wheel and shape her own life. By Greg Farrar

On Dec. 15, 2009, Rachel McNaul left her home in North Bend headed to Bellevue Honda. Near the Preston exit on Interstate 90, what should have been a 30-minute drive turned into a journey that McNaul is still on. A car driving in the wrong direction slammed head-on into her car.

The accident nearly killed the aspiring physical education teacher. McNaul, 24 at the time, suffered 19 broken bones and a traumatic brain injury. The other driver was seriously injured.

One year and 10 surgeries later, McNaul, who now lives in Issaquah, is nearly fully recovered. She still suffers from lingering effects from the accident and is still in physical therapy. But she is determined not to let the accident shape her life.

“Bad choices were made that day on her part,” McNaul said, referring to the other driver, Janet Bumgardner. But “her decisions are not going to get me down.”

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Issaquah health fair offers free screenings

February 22, 2011

The ninth annual Issaquah/Sammamish Health & Safety Fair, with a wide array of free health screenings, will be from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Pickering Farm. Admission is free.

The fair will feature more than 50 health care professionals representing about 35 businesses. My I.D. Club, a service of the King County Police Union, will offer free fingerprinting of children. The Issaquah and Sammamish Citizen Corps councils will have information about emergency preparedness for families and businesses. Eastside Fire & Rescue staff will also be on hand.

Specialists from Issaquah will be available to discuss topics, such as care for Alzheimer’s patients and braces for children. Ask questions about women’s health concerns or weight lifting.

Looking for a new doctor, dentist, chiropractor, personal trainer or acupuncturist? No appointment necessary to meet with these professionals at the Health & Safety Fair.

The health fair is presented by Overlake Medical Clinics — Issaquah and co-sponsored by the city of Issaquah Parks & Recreation Department.

Pickering Farm is north of Interstate 90 between exits 15 and 17, across from Costco.

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