May 4, 2010 in City

Wind wreaks havoc

Downed trees, lines close streets; gusts tear ‘X’ from sign at The Fox
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

Eileen Wilson braves the wind on Monday during a trip to the Silver Lake Mall in Coeur d’Alene.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

Winds gusting to 60 mph ripped up trees, knocked down power lines and triggered traffic accidents across the Inland Northwest on Monday.

Electric utility crews were expected to continue to mop up today after tens of thousands of customers lost power, including nearly 20,000 at the height of the storm Monday afternoon.

“There are so many incidences and they are each unique, so it’s hard to predict” when power will be fully restored, said Hugh Imhof, information manager for Avista Utilities. Outages affecting larger areas were restored first and smaller ones later, he said.

A peak wind gust of 59 mph was measured at Spokane International Airport at mid-afternoon, and a 60 mph gust was recorded in Coeur d’Alene.

The largest outages were in Deer Park, Colville, Sandpoint, Lewiston, Hayden, lower Lake Pend Oreille, Hoodoo, Creston and Deary, Idaho.

Avista reported nearly 18,000 customers without electricity about 2:20 p.m.

At 4 p.m., Inland Power and Light Co. reported that 4,200 of its customers were without power, and contract crews were brought in to help make repairs.

“They have their hands full, that’s for sure,” said weather forecaster Jon Fox.

At mid-afternoon, Imhof issued a statement seeking to reassure the public. “The crews are working as quickly and safely as possible and will continue to work as long as conditions are safe,” he said.

A high wind warning was posted throughout the day for most of the Inland Northwest, along with a blowing dust warning.

Monday’s storm was the third big wind event this spring. Storms on March 29 and April 8 were severe, but Monday’s storm had higher wind gusts and more outages. The previous storms brought peak gusts of 54 and 53 mph and outages of several thousand customers in each storm.

Breezy to windy conditions are expected today with gusts to about 24 mph. There is a 50 percent chance of showers today with highs in the upper 40s. Forecasters said cooler weather should bring snow to the mountains and possibly valley locations as well as lows below freezing through Wednesday night.

An outage affecting 1,400 connections in the Deer Park area was reported by Inland Power and Light Co. at 10:45 a.m. About 1,000 of those customers had power restored by early afternoon.

Nearly 400 Hauser Lake customers lost power after 11 a.m.

About 500 Kootenai Electric Cooperative members were without power in the Hayden, Rockford Bay, Harrison and Athol areas.

The total number of customers who lost power during the day was in excess of the 20,000 reported at the height of the storm, as many customers’ power circuits had been repaired by then and more outages occurred later in the day.

The city of Spokane warned motorists that when they encounter a darkened traffic light to treat the intersection like a four-way stop.

Downed trees and power lines were causing street closures, including Argonne Road near Upriver Drive, Wellesley Avenue east of McDonald Road, and Bernard Street between 34th and 36th avenues. At Riverfront Park in Spokane, the SkyRide over Spokane Falls was shut down. The vertical sign above the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox had an “X” torn away from its framework.

The Washington State Patrol reported a 2 p.m. injury accident on state Highway 21 just north of Interstate 90, which blocked the highway north of Lind. Visibility was poor at the time due to blowing dust.

A press release from Grant County’s Department of Emergency Management said that the storm was causing accidents and road closures.


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