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Cleanup underway after high winds knock down trees, halt traffic in Yakima and region
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Cleanup was underway in the Yakima area Monday after high winds blew through the region, downing trees, stirring up dust and causing power outages.

Gusts reached as high as 55 mph around 4 p.m. Sunday in the city of Yakima, according to the National Weather Service. Gusts topped 84 mph in Maryhill, 75 in Benton City and 58 at the Ellensburg airport, the weather service said.

Patrick Noaeill of 4 N. 36th Ave. in Yakima heard the tree on his front lawn break and fall around noon Sunday in the high winds. The tree fell onto North 36th Avenue, blocking traffic and hitting a power and cable line. The neighborhood lost power for a few hours.

The West Valley Fire Department also reported trees down on power lines and power pole fires.

The department responded to a 1-acre brush fire exacerbated by winds Sunday in the gated community of Falcon Ridge in West Valley after residents failed to extinguish a burn pile on Saturday. No serious injuries resulted.

Amanda Ray / Yakima Herald-Republic 

An employee of Spectrum Cable works to rewire cable lines Monday, March 29, 2021, on North 36th Avenue in Yakima, Wash., after high winds hit the area.

Elsewhere in the region, blowing dust deceased road visibility to 2-3 miles in some areas, including in the Tri-Cities.

Higher winds were reported east of Snoqualmie Pass and on Interstate 82 between Selah and Ellensburg, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. A dust storm closed Interstate 90 between Moses Lake and Ritzville for several hours Sunday, as WSDOT reported near-zero visibility on the highway.

A seven car pileup was reported on Interstate 182 just west of Queensgate Boulevard in Richland due to high winds and blowing dust, with no serious injuries reported, according to trooper Chris Thorson of the State Patrol.

The windstorm was caused by a strong cold front, normal for late winter and early spring in the area, the weather service said. The weather should be more tame this week, with highs in the mid-60s and light winds.

Yakima panaderia goes viral on TikTok with big, outrageous drinks
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Panaderia El Solecito, the downtown Yakima Mexican bakery, did not appear likely to become a viral sensation.

Founded in 2008 by Paulino Suarez and his family, the hole-in-the-wall panaderia existed in relative obscurity for its first 12 years. Beloved among regulars for its authentic Michoacan-style baked goods and family atmosphere, it was nevertheless not the sort of place that generated buzz. But Suarez and his family did have a knack for reading their market and listening to what people wanted.

Their apple empanadas, for example, didn’t come from Michoacan; Suarez developed a recipe for them after seeing local demand.

So when his kids suggested Panaderia El Solecito start offering coffee and colorful Red Bull drinks — the latter of which have become a bona fide Washington state sensation over the past decade — he went along with it. It made sense; bakeries sell drinks all the time.

That was June. Everything has changed since then. These days if you stop by on a weekend, there’s likely to be a line of cars stretching down the block, waiting to get to the drive-up window. The combination of social media savvy and multilayered day-glo drinks, stacked high with fruit garnishes and accompanied by clip-on sidecars stuffed with cotton candy or hot Cheetos, has drawn people from hours away.

The Google reviews tell the story:

• “Drove from Puyallup ... so worth it!!! Kiddos loved their drinks, everything was amazing.”

• “I had to make the trip from Wenatchee to Yakima to try it. Soooooo worth the 2-hour drive. I got a blue raspberry colada and a Mangonada so yyuuuuummmm!”

• “If you want a kick of red bull in your fun flavored drinks and cups this is the place to go. Be prepared for a line.”

• “The drinks are what make it so famous and all honesty they are worth the 3 hour drive.”

The primary driver for that is the business’ TikTok account, which frequently features Suarez family members and lighthearted displays of their work — and is up to 289,000 followers. The most-watched videos on the account, with millions of views, are the ones starring the drinks being handed to delighted customers in their cars. The quick cuts in the videos are designed so that the effect is a parade of insanely colorful beverages — objets d’art, really — each one more extravagantly appointed than the last. The reactions are compelling, as people reach through their car windows with both hands to accept drinks as large as 135 ounces.

“I think people know they’re big,” said Suarez’ 19-year-old daughter, Paulina. “But when they see them, their eyes are like, ‘Whoa.’”

Clearly a lot of creativity and planning went into both the drinks and their online presentation, but their immediate success caught the family by surprise, said Suarez’ 23-year-old daughter, Yesica, a Central Washington University accounting and finance graduate and frequent star of the TikTok videos.

“We didn’t know it was going to happen,” she said. “It’s helped us a lot.”

It could help ensure the family business’ lasting success, too. Panaderia El Solecito was always terrific, but now it’s cool.

“We have gotten a different kind of people,” Yesica Suarez said. “The younger generation.”

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Suez Canal reopens after stuck cargo ship is freed
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SUEZ, Egypt — Salvage teams on Monday finally freed the colossal container ship stuck for nearly a week in the Suez Canal, ending a crisis that had clogged one of the world’s most vital waterways and halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce.

A flotilla of tugboats, helped by the tides, wrenched the bulbous bow of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the canal’s sandy bank, where it had been firmly lodged since March 23.

The tugs blared their horns in jubilation as they guided the Ever Given through the water after days of futility that had captivated the world, drawing scrutiny and social media ridicule.

“We pulled it off!” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage firm hired to extract the Ever Given. “I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given … thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again.”

Navigation in the canal resumed at 6 p.m. local time (9 a.m. PDT) said Lt. Gen. Osama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, adding that the first ships that were moving carried livestock. From the city of Suez, ships stacked with containers could be seen exiting the canal into the Red Sea.

At least 113 of over 420 vessels that had waited for the Ever Given to be freed were expected to cross the canal by Tuesday morning, Rabei added at a news conference.

Analysts expect it could take at least another 10 days to clear the backlog on either end.

The Ever Given sailed to the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south ends of the canal, for inspection, said Evergreen Marine Corp., a Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship.

Buffeted by a sandstorm, the Ever Given had crashed into a bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal about 3.7 miles north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez. That created a massive traffic jam that held up $9 billion a day in global trade and strained supply chains already burdened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Rabei said an investigation would determine why the Ever Given got stuck, and he estimated daily losses to the canal of $12 million to $15 million.

“The Suez Canal is not guilty of what happened. We are the ones who suffered damage.” he said.

At least 367 vessels, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle, had backed up to wait to traverse the canal. Dozens of others have taken the long, alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip — a 3,100-mile detour that costs ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs.

The canal is a source of national pride and crucial revenue for Egypt, and President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi praised Monday’s events after days of silence about the blockage.

“Egyptians have succeeded in ending the crisis,” he wrote on Facebook, “despite the massive technical complexity.”

In the village of Amer, which overlooks the canal, residents cheered as the vessel moved along. Many scrambled to get a closer look while others mockingly waved goodbye to the departing ship from their fields of clover.

“Mission accomplished,” villager Abdalla Ramadan said. “The whole world is relieved.”

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo tweeted its congratulations to Egypt.

The breakthrough followed days of immense effort with an elite salvage team from the Netherlands. Tugboats pushed and pulled to budge the behemoth from the shore, their work buoyed by high tide at dawn Monday that led to the vessel’s partial refloating. Specialized dredgers dug out the stern and vacuumed sand and mud from beneath the bow.

The operation was extremely delicate. While the Ever Given was stuck, the rising and falling tides put stress on the vessel, which is a quarter mile long, raising concerns it could crack.

Rabei praised the team, saying they “achieved a very difficult mission in record time” without damaging the vessel or its cargo.

Berdowski told Dutch radio station NPO 1 the company had always believed it would be the two powerful tugboats it sent that would free the ship. Monday’s strong tide “helped push the ship at the top while we pulled at the bottom and luckily it shot free,” he said.

“We were helped enormously by the strong falling tide we had this afternoon. In effect, you have the forces of nature pushing hard with you and they pushed harder than the two sea tugs could pull,” Berdowski added.

The crew on the tugs was “euphoric,“ but there also was a tense moment when the huge ship was floating free ”so then you have to get it under control very quickly with the tugs around it so that it doesn’t push itself back into the other side” of the canal, he said.

Jubilant workers on a tugboat sailing with the Ever Given chanted, “Mashhour, No. 1,” referring to the dredger that worked around the vessel. The dredger is named for Mashhour Ahmed Mashhour, assigned to run the canal with others when it was nationalized in 1956 by President Gamal Abdel-Nasser.

Once the Ever Given is inspected in Great Bitter Lake, officials will decide whether the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship hauling goods from Asia to Europe would continue to its original destination of Rotterdam or head to another port for repairs.

The crisis cast a spotlight on the vital trade route that carries over 10% of global trade, including 7% of the world’s oil. Over 19,000 ships ferrying Chinese-made consumer goods and millions of barrels of oil and liquified natural gas flow through the artery from the Middle East and Asia to Europe and North America.

The unprecedented shutdown, which raised fears of extended delays, goods shortages and rising costs for consumers, has prompted new questions about the shipping industry, an on-demand supplier for a world under pressure from the pandemic.

“We’ve gone to this fragile, just-in-time shipping that we saw absolutely break down in the beginning of COVID,” said Capt. John Konrad, the founder and CEO of the shipping news website gcaptain.com. “We used to have big, fat warehouses in all the countries where the factories pulled supplies. … Now these floating ships are the warehouse.”

International trade expert Jeffrey Bergstrand predicted “only a minor and transitory effect” on prices of U.S. imports.

“Since most of the imports blocked over the last week are heading to Europe, U.S. consumers will likely see little effect on prices of U.S. imports, except to the extent that intermediate products of U.S. final goods are made in Europe,” said Bergstrand, professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.