Winds arrive in storm-weary Northwest

  • Sat Jan 21st, 2012 5:08pm
  • News

By Manuel Valdes and Nigel Duara Associated Press

SEATTLE — Strong winds descended on the storm-weary Pacific Northwest and thousands of people remained without power Saturday after a winter storm left a tangle of fallen trees and damaged power lines.

Around 195,000 customers remained without electricity, reported Puget Sound Energy, one of the region’s largest utilities. That was down from a peak of more than 260,000 customers.

Wind gusts close to 50 mph arrived in much of the region, which could combine with the remaining snow to bring down more trees. Four snowmobilers were rescued from near-whiteout conditions in Todd Lake, west of Bend.

“It’s a recipe for more down branches and potential power outages,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis D’Amico. “The good news is that we’ve had above freezing temperatures for over 24 hours. We’re on our way to melting the snow.”

In Oregon, worries about flooding and high winds subsided Saturday.

Highways along the coast were closed for several hours as high water crept over roadways, but warnings of potential flooding in Benton County proved unfounded.

In Washington, concerns over flooding also abated. The weather service issued flood advisories for only urban areas and creeks. They were, however, keeping an eye on the Skokomish river in Mason County, a flood-prone river, D’Amico said.

Windy conditions will continue into Sunday, D’Amico said.

Puget Sound Energy said that the winds will slow down some of the repair work and did not expect areas in Western Washington to have power until Monday or Tuesday. Nearly 900 crew members were deployed Saturday to fix damaged lines.

Olympia remained the most affected city, with close to 24,000 customers without power, the utility said.

Despite warnings from emergency officials, the first cases of possible carbon monoxide poisoning surfaced Friday night. Two families in Kent were taken to hospitals after suffering separate cases of possible poisoning. Both had been using charcoal barbecues indoors for heat.

The storm was blamed for three deaths. A mother and her 1-year-old son died after torrential rain on Wednesday swept away a car from an Albany, Ore., grocery store parking lot. An elderly man was fatally injured Thursday by a falling tree as he was backing an all-terrain vehicle out of a backyard shed near Seattle.

Just east of that region, about 200 skiers and workers were able to leave the Crystal Mountain ski resort on Friday after transportation officials reopened the area’s main highway, closed two days earlier by fallen trees.