High Winds Buffet Washington, Nearly 85,000 Lose Power

Tuesday, November 13th 2007, 8:12 am
By: News On 6

SEATTLE (AP) _ Winds gusting to nearly 100 mph blew trees and branches onto power lines and cut electricity to tens of thousands of homes and businesses across Western Washington on Monday.

The number of electrical outages grew as winds rose throughout the region, starting well before daybreak, but diminishing during the afternoon.

The National Weather Service said the strongest gust of wind it recorded was 97 mph along the Mount Baker Highway east of Bellingham about 9 a.m. Winds at Bellingham International Airport, about 80 miles north of Seattle, gusted to 74 mph.

A weather station at Bellingham Cold Storage, on Bellingham Bay, recorded a gust of 84 mph. Sustained winds were around 45 mph, and wind speeds alone broke several windows.

The Weather Service issued a snow advisory for the Cascade mountain passes, with the possibility of four to eight inches falling near Steven's Pass Monday night.

One of the earliest power outages was before dawn around Monroe, where about 8,000 customers lost power for a time after three substations went off line, said Neil Neroutsos, a spokesman for the Snohomish County Public Utility District.

That problem was resolved fairly quickly, but later storm-related problems cut power to about 1,400 customers in the Lake Stevens area, Neroutsos said.

The region's largest utility, Puget Sound Energy, had roughly 37,000 customers in the dark at various times in nine counties, with Whatcom and Thurston counties hit the hardest, spokeswoman Christina Mills said.

More than 15,000 customers were without electricity in the Grays Harbor County Public Utility District, spokeswoman Liz Anderson reported.

At least 9,300 Cowlitz County PUD customers also lost power, along with 8,000 in the Clallam County PUD, utility officials said.

Seattle City Light reported nearly 3,900 customers lost power in the Burien area because of a failure in a feeder line.

Eastern Washington also had problems. Spokane-based Avista Utililties said about 1,140 customers lost power in Eastern Washington and northern Idaho from wind-related power outages.

Windy weather was blamed for outages that hit about 2,000 homes and businesses north of Vancouver, Wash., mostly in and around Yacolt, Amboy and Ridgefield, said Mick Shutt, a spokesman for the Clark County Public Utility District.

Other wind gusts reported by the National Weather Service about noon included 71 mph at Hoquiam, 62 at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station near Oak Harbor, 56 at Friday Harbor, 55 at Quillayute on the Olympic Peninsula, 53 at McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma, 48 at La Center, 46 in Kelso, 45 at Burlington, and 41 at Olympia and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Snoqualmie Pass east of Seattle had wet snow and slush on a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 90 from the summit to Easton, transportation officials said.

Additional snow removal crews were summoned to keep the road clear for holiday traffic.