Wind sweeps through

Crews work to restore power to thousands

Colin Mulvany photo

Dan Davis, left, and Isaac Gordon clear a path for cars after a large blue spruce tree fell in the roadway on the 1900 block of East Ninth Avenue on Monday in Spokane. “This is the biggest Christmas tree to come down this year,” Gordon said.

December 18, 2012 - Updated: 7:43 a.m.

UPDATE: 7:30 a.m.

Avista is now reporting fewer than 20 customers without power. Kootenai Electric Cooperative is reporting one customer without power.

ORIGINAL STORY

A windstorm packing gusts of 50 to 70 mph slammed into the Inland Northwest early Monday, knocking out power to more than 30,000 electrical customers.

Utility crews worked furiously through the day to get power restored.

Avista Utilities reported late Monday afternoon that it had restored power to 16,000 customers and still had 4,650 customers in the dark.

Outages in Chewelah and Colville were among those still awaiting repair.

Kootenai Electric Cooperative said the winds caused severe problems south of the Spokane River in Plummer, Worley and St. Maries.

Erika Neff, spokeswoman for Kootenai Electric, said 2,000 customers had power restored through the day, but another 1,000 were waiting to get their lights back on.

Crews, she said, “will keep working until all power is restored.”

The outages were mainly caused by falling trees or branches, but also by utility poles that snapped in the wind, she said.

In addition, Avista lost current in a major transmission line that feeds parts of North Idaho, she said.

Inland Power and Light Co. reported that fewer than 500 customers lost power in its service area and all of them had power back on by Monday evening.

Near Cheney, wind blew off the roof of a manufactured home, and the Red Cross was helping the occupants with temporary shelter.

The National Weather Service reported a peak wind gust of 53 mph just before 9 a.m. at Spokane International Airport. Another wind gust of 56 mph was measured near Mead.

Southeast Washington, the Palouse region and Lewiston area saw even stronger gusts. The airport at Pullman had a 59 mph gust, while a weather station 2 miles northwest of Pullman recorded a 64 mph gust.

In Idaho, a 70 mph gust was clocked at Corral Creek in Nez Perce County. The airport in Coeur d’Alene saw a 58 mph gust.

In addition to the wind, heavy snow was reported north of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. Nearly 10 inches was on the ground at one spot northeast of Deer Park and at another location south of Sandpoint.

A snow plow driver for the Washington State Department of Transportation ran into a fallen tree while clearing snow near Republic in Ferry County but was not injured.

Spokane city crews cleared five trees out of city streets.

In Spokane Valley, a tree came down at Marguerite Road and Valleyway. A large limb fell into the street on Fourth Avenue east of Barker Road.

The weather service had issued a series of advisories and warnings for the storm, expected to move east by today, leaving behind a chance of snow showers and colder air. Today’s high should reach 30 after a high of 39 early on Monday.

But the break in storms will be short. Another 3 to 5 inches of snow is possible across the region starting in the late morning on Wednesday and continuing into the day on Thursday, the weather service said.


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