Wind topples trees, power lines

Monday night’s windstorm caused power outages, road closures and plenty of headaches across much of Island and Snohomish counties.

And there’s more bad news: Another storm is building off the coast, and forecasters say there’s even a chance of snow for the higher hills by the weekend.

PUD workers were scrambling Tuesday to restore power to homes and businesses. Some people were marooned in their cars overnight because of toppled trees and downed power lines.

Gusts reached 40 mph in parts of the region Monday night. As of 9 a.m., about 7,500 Snohomish County PUD customers were without power, down from a high of about 25,000 Monday night, officials said.

More than 28 Snohomish County PUD crews worked through the night and into the morning. Six other contract crews also were called in.

PUD spokesman Mike Thorne urged patience and for people to stay away from downed lines, even if they look innocuous.

“They can be deadly if people get too close,” he said.

North Snohomish County has been hit harder than the south, but the outages are scattered throughout the region. There were more than 200 calls to fire districts in the north end of the county over night.

“It was a busy night,” Granite Falls Fire District Chief Jim Haverfield said.

A few hundred students in the Granite Falls School District may miss school today because of the storm.

The high winds knocked down power lines and trees on the Mountain Loop Highway, about a mile north of the city center, near the Falls area, district spokeswoman Kathy Grant said.

Buses can’t get to the students living on the other side of the obstructions, she said.

The district has contacted the Snohomish County PUD for help, but has no estimate on when the highway will be open to buses.

“Parents can’t get through either,” Grant said. “Those kids up there, right this minute, won’t have school today.”

Granite Falls resident Richard Rucker said the storm made for a long night for some people who couldn’t get home.

“There are people who slept in their cars,” he said. “They were stuck.”

Rucker could have been one of them. He bought a flash light in town and was able to walk about three miles to his house.

Kevin Lenon, a volunteer firefighter in Darrington, described a treacherous drive home Monday night along Highway 530. He was returning from a training drill at an Arlington Heights fire station.

As he drove through Oso, firefighters there were helping extricate someone after a tree smashed into a car just west of town. No one was injured, but there was fire in the area around the rescue.

At four different spots along Highway 530, Lenon saw several sparking wires from fallen trees.

There was thunder, too, along with flashes of lightning. He drove slowly with his windows down so that he could hear any cracks from trees that might fall over the roadway.

“We were chasing the storm up the valley,” he said. “I was really nervous driving home.”

Much of the work for volunteer firefighters was marking areas of downed power lines with flares and traffic cones and removing tree debris.

The South Whidbey School District closed all schools today, on account of power outages.

The Coupeville School District had a two-hour late start time, and cancelled morning kindergarten classes and pre-school.

The Darrington School District started classes an hour later than usual.

Along with the wind, the storm brought thunder and lightning to Snohomish County. That had people concerned, said meteorologist Johnny Burg with the National Weather Service in Seattle.

The “main emphasis was thunder and lightning,” Burg said. “Some places probably some sustained winds of 20-30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.”

Everett received about two-tenths of an inch of rain for the 24-hour period that ended at 4 a.m. Tuesday, Burg said. That followed about a quarter of an inch the previous day.

Tuesday was expected to bring mellower weather before higher winds and rains kicked back up on Wednesday.

“Today will be kind of a reprieve but tomorrow’s looking to be breezy and rainy again,” Burg said. “The rain will start coming in after midnight tonight.”

Expect south winds of 15-20 mph, with the possibility of gusts reaching around 40 mph. That could be coupled with lowland rainfalls of a half an inch to an inch.

As the week progresses, temperatures are expected to decline.

Highs are forecast to hit the mid-40s to low-50s on Wednesday, Burg said. Expect highs in the mid-40s on Thursday and Friday, then the low-40s on Saturday.

Temperatures might only reach around 40 degrees on Sunday and Monday.

“Starting Saturday into Sunday and into next week, things might be cooling off where temperatures might be around 40 degrees and some places could see some snow showers,” Burg said.

A winter storm watch is in effect for the Olympics and the Cascades. That means snow is likely on major roadways, such as Stevens and Snoqualmie passes. Anywhere above 2,000 feet – Stevens is about twice that—could see up to 20 inches of snow accumulate, Burg said.

“It’s probably going to affect the traffic over the passes,” he said.

The eight- to 14-day outlook is for near-normal temperatures but above-normal precipitation.

A moderate to strong La Nina system is expected this winter. That generally means colder- and wetter-than-normal weather for the Pacific Northwest.

Herald writer Andy Rathbun contributed to this report.

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