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Power restored from Sunday wind storm

Mon., March 16, 2009, 8:24 a.m.

Electrical power was restored across the region by Monday morning after a fast-moving wind storm raked across the Spokane region Sunday evening.

A wind gust of 66 mph was measured at 5:14 p.m. at Spokane International Airport. Grant County near Warden also saw a peak gust of 68 mph.

Unstable weather was forecast to continue today with breezy conditions. Areas north of Spokane could see strong showers of rain, snow or hail this afternoon.

At one point Sunday, nearly 12,000 Avista Utilities customers were without power. The largest outage involved a fault in a transmission line that interrupted power to 11,000 customers on the South Side of Spokane. About a third of those customers got power back within minutes when Avista operators rerouted electrical flow and the remaining customers had power back in about an hour.

Jessie Wuerst, communications manager for Avista, said recent upgrades in power lines serving the South Side allowed power to be rerouted and restored more quickly than it would have been if the same problem had occurred in past years.

Elsewhere, about 620 customers lost power in north Spokane. One outage on the North Side was caused when a carport was blown into power lines, she said.

Shortly after 7 p.m., nearly 350 customers lost power in Sandpoint and another 300 in Pullman. As of 10 p.m., about 1,000 customers didn’t have power.

Smaller outages were reported in Othello, Davenport, Colville, Chewelah, the West Plains and Coeur d’Alene/Hayden.

Inland Power and Light Co. reported no large outages in its service area.

Greg Koch, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Spokane, said the high winds were caused by a fast-moving low-pressure area that drew higher winds to the surface from the upper atmosphere. At the time, the high-altitude jet stream was positioned above Spokane and moving at about 160 mph.

The record high wind gust in Spokane is 88 mph.

Forecasters said the weather this week should continue with a series of weak low-pressure disturbances, bringing the risk of rain and possibly some snow to the region through Friday. Snow levels will go from about 2,500 feet elevation today to 5,000 feet by Thursday.

Highs through Wednesday are expected to be in the low 40s. A more southwesterly flow arrives by Thursday when the high may break the 50-degree mark for the first time since mid-November. Sunday’s storm brought a high of 49.

A new Pacific storm system is expected by Saturday with cool temperatures after that, said forecaster Kerry Jones of the National Weather Service.

In the mountains, the snowpack improved from 82 to 85 percent in the mountains north and east of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene during the past week, Jones said.



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