One of the strongest storms to strike the Pacific coast in years delivered a hard blow to the Inland Northwest Tuesday night.
Power outages were reported throughout the region - blacking out thousands of homes - as trees were uprooted and tossed into electrical lines by gusts topping 59 mph.
The South Hill went dark at 10:35 p.m., less than an hour after the National Weather Service issued a high wind warning. There were no reports of any life-threatening injuries linked to the storm.
Winds were forecast to subside this morning.
It was the third windstorm to strike the region in the past two weeks.
This time, a powerful low-pressure center punished the Oregon and Washington coasts before turning inland into southern British Columbia.
Mother Nature gave forecasters plenty of warning of the roaring wind and rain.
Some people didn’t believe the forecast when the air remained relatively calm at nightfall. By 7:30 p.m., however, gusts were peaking at 40 mph.
Two hours later, the storm knocked power out in all of Pend Oreille County.
Elsewhere, a tree crashed into a home at Medical Lake, authorities said.
Downed trees landed on U.S. Highway 2 and other roads.
A weather spotter in Cheney reported a gust of 70 mph.
The storm set a record for the lowest air-pressure reading for the month of December, at 28.99, and the temperature rose to 51 degrees after dusk.
Throughout the day, meteorologists billed the storm that hit Tuesday night as the worst in 10 years, and power and telephone crews scrambled from one meeting to the next, planning cleanup strategies and calling in extra workers.
“We’re preparing for it as an emergency, and we’re guessing we’ll have a high level of outages,” Dana Anderson, a Washington Water Power spokeswoman, said Tuesday afternoon.
“All of our employees are on alert.”
Not a lot of residents shared the concern.
Many went from store to store Tuesday, but not to stock up on emergency supplies.
“I have Christmas shopping to finish,” said a determined Marci Razor at the General Store on North Division.
She dropped two snake-like Black and Decker flashlights into her cart - gifts for her father and boyfriend.
“If we need them tonight, then we’ll open them early,” Razor shrugged. “But really, how bad can it get?”
Knowing there was a storm coming, but not sure of its potential, Alison Bulger planned to stay home with her kids and watch movies. She threw in a giant bag of popcorn along with the “Home Alone” video she rented at Hastings on West Wellesley.
She hadn’t thought about what the family would do if high winds knocked out the electricity - and the VCR.
“Oh, no,” Bulger said. “Don’t say that.”
There was some evidence of preparations being made by residents Tuesday, like the run on tarps and rope at the General Store. Several customers bought propane heaters and one loaded up on kerosene.
“The day after the storm is when people all come in here, though,” said manager Bill Barany.
On Francis Avenue, workers at a Christmas tree lot threw sandbags around fence and light posts and hoped the wind wouldn’t destroy the freshly cut tannenbaums.
“If it gets as bad as they say, there’s nothing we can do,” said Allen Hixson, who tended the 700-tree lot Tuesday. “It’ll just be a mess here tomorrow.”
Inspired by the thought of spending a quiet night inside while the storm swirled around them, one young couple picked out a 6-foot grand fir and decided to devote the evening to decorating.
Kelly and Tim LeVarge said they’d turn off the television, listen to the wind and let sprucing up the Christmas tree put them in the holiday spirit.
“Yeah, but then we’ll just get into a fight because the lights won’t look right or something,” Tim LeVarge joked.
His wife rolled her eyes.
“Not if you just listen to me,” she replied. “Or you might end up in the rain.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo Graphic: Northwest’s windy weather