Winds gusting to 53 mph struck the Inland Northwest on Thursday, knocking out power to thousands of customers in a daylong onslaught.
It was the second damaging windstorm 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, another 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 Imhof, 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 windstorm.
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.
Imhof said the outages were “scattered all over. There are no big ones. They are just everywhere.”
Outages affected 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 1,000 of its customers, including 500 in Airway Heights and the West Plains and 490 at Newman Lake. By Thursday night, service had been restored to all but 400 homes; 270 of those were at Newman Lake, where a company spokeswoman described the damage as extensive.
In Idaho, about 600 customers of Kootenai Electrical Cooperative were without electricity in Hayden Lake, Harrison and Rockford.
Another windstorm on March 29 knocked 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 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.
Imhof 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 forecast, with gusts to 26 mph. The high temperature today may reach 44, with a slight chance of rain or snow 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 Sunday.