Windstorm knocks out power to thousands

Associated Press

SEATTLE – Winds gusting to more than 60 mph inland and 90 mph on the coast caused widespread power outages in Western Washington and snow snarled traffic in parts of the state late Thursday and early today.

About 100,000 people were without electricity early today. At the height of the storm, more than 200,000 residents were blacked out.

Dorothy Bracken, spokeswoman for Puget Sound Energy, said outages hit 125,000 of the utility’s 940,000 customers in nine Western Washington counties.

About 17,000 homes and businesses on Whidbey Island – about half the total – were among the 45,000 utility customers still without power by midday. Winds were clocked at more than 60 mph at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

“We’re hoping most … will be back on by dusk,” Bracken said.

About 38,000 Snohomish Public Utility District customers also were without power early today.

Seattle City Light reported about 2,500 outages at midmorning today, down from about 5,500 overnight. The company hoped to have most of its customers back on line by midday.

Eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 were reopened late this morning after two closures between Milepost 33 and Snoqualmie Pass – one caused by accidents and the other by downed trees and tree limbs. Westbound lanes remained open.

Blowing snow and poor visibility hampered drivers on the icy interstate and traction tires were required.

Stormy weather also was blamed by Portland General Electric and Pacificorp for about 45,000 outages in Oregon, and snow and sleet brought the Thursday evening commute to a crawl in and around Vancouver, British Columbia.

The National Weather Service blamed the blustery weather on a rapidly moving cold front that followed a brief warming spell.

At Ocean Shores on the Washington coast, winds as high as 90 mph toppled trees, ripped roofs off houses and rolled a 30-foot traffic trailer late Thursday, police said. No injuries were reported.

The Ocean Shores Elementary School gym was evacuated when the roof was damaged and began leaking.

Much of the east side of the state got snow in Thursday’s storm – 4 inches in Yakima and 5 in Spokane – though temperatures warmed from the low 20s to the mid-30s by this morning and much of the region had sunshine. The weather service issued a winter storm watch for late today and early Saturday with the possibility of more snow or freezing rain.

Snow also slowed traffic on Interstate 5 in Whatcom and northern Skagit counties, but no major accidents were reported.

Fallen trees temporarily blocked U.S. 101 on the coast near Raymond and trees also fell on Washington 109 north and south of Copalis Beach. State Transportation Department crews were dispatched to clear them.

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