High wind and dust caused several accidents in central Washington, closed Interstate 90 in both directions west of Ritzville and brought scattered power outages to areas of Spokane and North Idaho on Sunday.
By Sunday afternoon, 11 people had been injured in Grant County traffic accidents caused by reduced visibility. None of the injuries was life-threatening.
By 8 p.m., state officials had reopened I-90 between Moses Lake and Ritzville, after closing that stretch for 20 hours because of blowing dust and “near-zero visibility.” The conditions caused a five-vehicle pileup, and uncounted other accidents and mishaps along roads in the area.
The Grant County Sheriff’s Office asked motorists to stay off the roadways in that region.
The National Weather Service issued a dust storm warning for western Adams County and southern Grant County, where winds were expected to reach 25 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph.
Other roads in the area remained closed tonight, including the Lind-Warden Highway between Warden and state Route 21; Rosenoff Road between Moody and the Grant County line; Providence Road; and Lind-Hatton Road. Wheeler Road between Moses Lake and Adams County had reopened, but motorists were advised that they traveled the road at their own risk.
Just before midnight Saturday, the blinding storm caused a five-vehicle accident in which eight people were injured on I-90 in Adams County, according to the Washington State Patrol.
The most seriously injured was airlifted to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.
The crash occurred when a vehicle slowed in the dust storm and was struck from behind by another vehicle, which then left the highway and entered a ditch. The first vehicle was then struck again by a third vehicle, which was struck by two more oncoming vehicles.
All of the vehicles involved, including two semi tractor-trailer rigs, were totaled.
The crash is under investigation, but vehicular assault charges are pending against one driver. The trooper who responded to the collision reported that at least one driver was suspected of driving under the influence.
High winds knocked brought down power lines, causing outages in Spokane County, as well as North Idaho.
At the peak of the outages, Avista Utilities had about 8,000 customers without power, including about 2,000 just north of Spokane. Fewer than 1,800 Avista customers remained without power late Sunday afternoon.
About 1,500 Kootenai Electric customers in the Plummer and Harrison were without power after an Avista transmission line went down Sunday morning about 9:45. Power was restored to most of those customers by 4 p.m.
There were other scattered outages reported in Bonner and Shoshone counties