March 29, 2010 in City, Idaho

Winds cut power to 2,800 in Inland NW

Gusts to 54 mph sweep through region
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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At least 2,800 Inland Northwest electrical customers were without power this afternoon after winds to 54 mph peaked early this afternoon, officials said.

Outages from downed power lines occurred across Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Davenport, Chewelah, Sandpoint, Hayden Lake and northern Kootenai County, power companies said.

Power was being restored fairly quickly, one utility spokeswoman said.

Avista Utilities reported more than 1,200 people without power at one point early this afternoon.

Kootenai Electric Cooperative reported 1,000 customers without power this afternoon.

Inland Power and Light Co. reported that power was cut to 430 customers near Reflection Lake in north Spokane County. That outage began after 10 a.m.

“That was some big wind,” said Catherine Cronin, spokeswoman for Inland Power.

Utility officials warned residents to stay away from downed lines that might be carrying live current.

A wind advisory remained in effect until 8 p.m. today. Winds should ease later tonight, forecasters said.

The peak gusts came after noon as a cold front crossed the region. The highest gust occurred at Fairchild Air Force Base at 54 mph., but Deer Park, Felts Field and Coeur d’Alene had gusts to 49 mph early this afternoon.

Spokane International Airport had a peak gust of 44 mph.

The last time the region saw winds above 50 mph was in March 2009.

Limbs littered streets on the South Side of Spokane by early this afternoon, and a pair of trees blew down in the Indian Canyon area on the west side of the city.

Skiing was closed at 49 Degrees North near Chewelah due to an outage and high winds.

Schweitzer and Silver Mountain ski areas also were closed.

Highs may not reach the predicted lower 50s today now that the storm’s main cold front has crossed into Idaho from the Pacific coast.

Behind the front, a deep trough of lower air pressure is moving toward the Inland Northwest from the eastern Pacific Ocean with below-normal temperatures in the upper 40s expected for the rest of the week.

The leading edge of the low on Sunday brought 0.58 inches of rain to Spokane by this morning. Rainfall amounts across Eastern Washington ranged from a quarter inch to three-quarters of an inch of rain.

The storm was also dropping snow in the Cascades where up to a foot of new snow may fall. Snow was falling at Snoqualmie Pass this morning, and wet snow and slush were creeping into the travel lanes along shoulder areas. Traction tires were advised.

Compact snow and ice was reported at Sherman Pass west of Kettle Falls.

In the mountains of northeast Washington and North Idaho up to 8 inches of snow may accumulate starting this afternoon through Tuesday, forecasters said. That may help a lean snow pack that has been running about half of normal this month.

The incoming low has a strong upper-elevation jet stream of wind moving onto the coast this morning, and the momentum from the upper winds could be reflected downward to ground level by this afternoon, forecasters said.

Cold air associated with low pressure in conjunction with high dew points may lead to thunderstorms this afternoon as well. Winds blowing downward from any cellular storms might be severe, forecasters said. Thunderstorms are most likely before 5 p.m.

Forecasters said they will be watching for comma-shaped patterns on radar imagery to indicate where severe storms are developing. If they develop, residents can expect warnings to be issued.

The unsettled weather should continue throughout the week with the chance of rain showers again on Tuesday at 70 percent during the day and 60 percent Tuesday night. Showers should continue on Wednesday with a slight risk of showers Thursday before another low moves toward the region Friday.

Colder air in the heart of the low, flowing into the region from the Gulf of Alaska may bring a risk of rain or snow showers to lower elevations by Tuesday night.


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