Winds gusting to 53 mph struck the Inland Northwest Thursday, knocking out power to thousands of customers in a daylong onslaught.
It was the second damaging wind storm in 12 days in an early spring that has become remarkable for its contrast to the outgoing mild winter.
Trees and limbs were thrown into power lines and onto streets. Utility crews ran from one outage to the next trying to get customers back on line. As soon as they fixed one, more occurred.
At least 5,000 customers, and probably more, were without power at the storm’s peak early in the afternoon.
“Some guys are going to earn some overtime, I am sure,” said Hugh Imhoff, spokesman for Avista Utilities.
Winds gusted to 53 mph at Spokane International Airport and Pullman; 48 in downtown Spokane; 45 in Coeur d’Alene; and 45 in Deer Park. Sustained winds peaked at 44 mph at the airport.
A high-energy cold front passed through Spokane at 8 a.m., triggering the wind storm.
During the afternoon rush, a Spokane city spokeswoman reminded drivers to treat darkened traffic lights like four-way stops.
At 1 p.m. and again at 2:30 p.m., Avista had more than 4,000 customers without power, including 3,700 in Moscow at 1 p.m.
Imhoff said the outages were “scattered all over. There are no big ones. They are just everywhere.”
Outages involved 400 in Davenport, 200 in Kellogg, 270 in Sandpoint, 360 in North Spokane, 170 on the South Hill, 640 in Grangeville and 130 in Colville.
Inland Power and Light had power cut to about 1,200 of its customers, including 500 in Airway Heights and West Plains and 490 at Newman Lake. By Thursday night, 400 homes were without service, 270 of those at Newman Lake.
In Idaho, about 600 customers of Kootenai Electrical Cooperative were without electricity in Hayden Lake, Harrison and Rockford.
Another wind storm on March 29 put out power to nearly 3,000 electrical customers in the Inland Northwest; like Thursday’s storm, downed trees and limbs caused the outages.
Thursday’s storm was more severe because it struck over a wider area over a longer period of time.
Utility officials reminded residents to stay away from any downed power lines, and to notify their utility company when power goes out or a line goes down.
Imhoff said he was unaware of any injuries. A Spokane County fire dispatcher also said she was unaware of any weather-related injuries.
Gusts are expected to continue today. Southwest winds to 16 mph are being forecast with gusts to 26 mph. Highs today may reach 44 with a slight chance of rain or show showers.
Spokane has seen only 14.4 inches of snow since last fall, which is only about a third of normal for the season.
Improving weather is likely for Saturday with mostly sunny skies and a high of 55. A slight chance of showers returns on Sunday.