A large cedar tree leans on a north Everett home after being completely uprooted during an overnight wind storm Saturday, in Everett. The owners of the house were home when the gigantic tree fell, but were unscathed in the incident. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A large cedar tree leans on a north Everett home after being completely uprooted during an overnight wind storm Saturday, in Everett. The owners of the house were home when the gigantic tree fell, but were unscathed in the incident. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Overnight winds cause sweeping power outages in Snohomish County

Almost half of Snohomish County PUD customers lost power early Saturday morning. It could take days for all households to be restored.

EVERETT — Nearly 200,000 people lost power early Saturday morning after a winter storm ripped through Snohomish County with wind speeds around 50 miles per hour.

Social media swelled with reports of uprooted trees, darkened downtown intersections and howling gusts that kept some residents up throughout the night. One woman was seriously injured when a tree fell on her home, according to a release from the Marysville Fire District. Firefighters took the 20-year-old Marysville resident to Providence Regional Medical Center in critical condition, according to the release.

“This was one of more than 80 emergency calls Marysville firefighters received over a 10-hour period during the peak and aftermath of severe weather Friday,” the department wrote. “Firefighters provided mutual aid in response to another tree that fell onto a residence in the Port Susan Camping Club. … Throughout the night, firefighters also responded to numerous other reports of fallen trees, downed power lines, fires and other emergencies.”

The department encouraged residents to avoid travel Saturday as professional crews worked to clean up debris. For safety, people should avoid downed powerlines and trees that could be entangled in live lines.

A large portion of an old tree along Colby lies in the street following a wind storm at around 1 a.m. Saturday, in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A large portion of an old tree along Colby lies in the street following a wind storm at around 1 a.m. Saturday, in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Snohomish County PUD sent 14 line crews and 21 support crews to remove downed trees and branches around the county and restore swaths of the power grid, said spokesperson Aaron Swaney. They worked throughout the day and were joined in the evening by mutual aid crews from utility districts in other parts of the state and Oregon.

“We’re all hands on deck. … This is a major storm for us,” Swaney said. “A lot of trees came down. What we find this time of year … is that branches have a lot more leaves on them, so the wind can really grab those limbs and knock them into lines.”

At least 190,000 customers, or about half of PUD’s customers, lost power at the peak of the outages around midnight, he said. As of 5 p.m. Saturday, about 94,000 customers remained with out electricity.

This was one of the biggest storms the agency has responded to in at least five years, Swaney said.

A vehicle drives around tree debris on Colby Avenue near Everett Golf Club at the tail end of a windy evening at around 1 a.m. Saturday, in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A vehicle drives around tree debris on Colby Avenue near Everett Golf Club at the tail end of a windy evening at around 1 a.m. Saturday, in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Kellie Stickney, another PUD spokesperson, said the last storm with comprable power outages occured in 2015.

“We’re probably pretty close to the Nov. 25, 2015, windstorm, when about 60% of our customers were without power,” she said.

Just after midnight, Debra King and her family were lighting candles in their pitch-black kitchen when they heard glass shatter in a bedroom of their Bayside apartment. They ran into the bathroom to take shelter. A 100-year-old weeping willow from their neighbor’s yard had blown down in the windstorm, smashing the side of the building. Nobody was hurt, King said.

“It was so horrifying all night,” she said. “Glass kept crashing and breaking, just enough to keep us on edge. Never been so scared in my life.”

On Saturday, King stood outside her home on Rucker Avenue and watched a crew remove and chop up the downed tree.

The old tree on the corner of Rucker and 23rd Street was a favorite in the Bayside neighborhood. King said she has an Everett history book with a photo of the willow just after it was planted as a small sapling, 100 years ago.

“I’m thankful to be alive,” she said. “But that tree. It’s so heartbreaking. I feel like I lost my mom or something. We praised that tree, talked about that tree, like, every day.”

King said the tree was appreciated by humans and animals wildlife alike.

“So many birds, squirrels and raccoons — everybody loved that tree,” she said.

The weeping willow was among dozens of trees around north Everett that blew down in the windstorm, smashing homes and fences, obstructing streets and downing powerlines.

Most of the outages were in homes, but some non-residential customers were affected, including both Providence Regional Medical Center locations, Kaiser Permanente in Everett and Swedish in Edmonds, Swaney said.

Both Providence locations were back online by about 7:20 a.m., almost seven hours after their outages started. They used backup power sources in the meantime, Swaney said. The other hospitals had been restored by 5 p.m., Stickney said.

PUD crews prioritize restoring power to “critical infrastructure” like hospitals, water pump stations and schools first, Swaney said. They also focus on high voltage transmission lines that serve large numbers of customers.

“It’s going to take multiple days to clean up and restore power to all customers,” Swaney said. “The damage is that extensive.”

Swaney recommended that households with electric heat designate one or two rooms to stay warm as they wait for power to be restored. People living in more rural areas may want to consider making a “plan B” to stay with friends or book a hotel, he said.

A woman diverts from her walk on Colby Avenue to take a closer look at a pickup truck that was partly crushed by a fallen tree during an overnight wind storm Saturday, in north Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A woman diverts from her walk on Colby Avenue to take a closer look at a pickup truck that was partly crushed by a fallen tree during an overnight wind storm Saturday, in north Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Anyone who uses a backup generators should follow the stafety tips outlined on the PUD website, Stickney said. Generators, heaters and cookware that emit carbon dioxide should not be used inside.

Wind blown foliage also caused an overnight closure of U.S. 2. The road reopened around 8:15 a.m. after crews “worked through the night to clear out 25(!) downed trees,” according to a WSDOT tweet. Other roadways in Marysville, Lake Stevens and Monroe were littered with debris.

And outages made many of the Downtown Everett traffic lights dark. Drivers that find an intersection without a working light should treat it like a four-way stop.

Over-land wind speeds peaked from 9 to 11 p.m., topping out at 49 miles per hour at Paine Field, said Dustin Guy, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Seattle office. Areas closer to the water experienced gusts as high as 65 miles per hour, he said.

Large logs flow quickly down the Snohomish River as the river reaches minor flood stage a hair over 25 feet following an overnight storm Saturday, in Snohomish. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Large logs flow quickly down the Snohomish River as the river reaches minor flood stage a hair over 25 feet following an overnight storm Saturday, in Snohomish. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

That’s in part because the Strait of Juan de Fuca acts as a funnel that speeds up wind. Guy said the winds “howled through the strait when the front went through,” much like liquid moving quickly through a straw.

The storm also caused some minor flooding in the Snohomish River, but forecasts predicted that water levels would recede throughout the day Saturday and fall below flood stages by the evening.

Guy also expected winds to settle into the weekend.

“It could be locally breezy through midday but nothing like what we saw last night,” he told a Herald reporter on Saturday morning.

The forecast calls for rain and low temperatures over the next three days.

Vehicles pass between pieces of a large cottonwood that came down over Lowell Snohomish River Road, crushing a guardrail and taking out power lines, during an overnight wind storm Saturday, in Snohomish. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Vehicles pass between pieces of a large cottonwood that came down over Lowell Snohomish River Road, crushing a guardrail and taking out power lines, during an overnight wind storm Saturday, in Snohomish. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

There’s a chance of rain-snow mix in higher elevation neighborhoods in Everett, Guy said.

“Don’t be surprised if you wake up Monday morning and it’s 30 degrees and raining,” he said.

Mallory Gruben is a Report for America corps member who writes about education for The Daily Herald.

Mallory Gruben: 425-339-3035; mallory.gruben@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @MalloryGruben.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; ellen.dennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen.

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