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Thousands without power due to weather

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 17, 2012, 10:47 a.m.

Thousands of people were without power due to heavy winds and inclement weather this morning, stretching from Colville and Chewelah to St. Maries, Sandpoint and the Palouse.

Avista Utilities was reporting more than 11,000 customers were without power this morning throughout its service areas. KHQ is reporting that Plummer-Worley School District is releasing all students this morning due to a power outage.

Avista crews were working to restore power as quickly and safely as possible, a news release from the Spokane energy company said. People who see downed power lines are asked to call 800-227-9187 to report its location. Avista advised that people should not touch or attempt to remove fallen limbs from downed or sagging power lines. They should also treat all power lines as if they are energized, the release said.

Heavy winds reportedly blew off the roof of a mobile home near Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in southern Spokane County, officials said. The American Red Cross reportedly was helping the family find temporary shelter.

A large blue spruce fell in this morning’s high winds and was blocking Ninth Avenue between Perry Street and Altamont Boulevard. The tree knocked out the phone line of one home but did no further damage. Isaac Gordan, who lives at the home where the tree fell said he was uncertain when city crews would arrive.

“I’m about to go get my chainsaw,” he said.

The National Weather Service’s wind advisory for today predicted gusts up to 50 mph in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area. A high wind warning was also issued for the Idaho and Washington Palouse area today. Winds brought in by a Pacific storm are expected to be between 35 to 45 mph, with gusts of up to 55 mph.

The warnings advise caution for vehicles that may tip in high winds. The winds should die down after sunset. The warnings expire at 6 p.m. today.

Spokane International Airport saw a wind gust of 53 mph this morning, while Pullman was hit by a 54 mph gust. Southeast Washington and the Lewiston area also saw strong winds with a 69 mph gust reported at a location known as Alpowa Summit.

As for snow, parts of North Idaho and Northeast Washington saw substantial accumulations with 10 inches reportedly on the ground south of Sandpoint. A similar amount was reported north-northeast of Deer Park.

Interstate 90 mountain passes remained open this morning. Compact snow was reported at Lookout Pass, but Fourth of July Pass had some slush. In Washington, Snoqualmie Pass had some compact ice and traction tires were advised.

Another snow storm is likely Wednesday and Wednesday night with 4 to 8 inches currently being forecast for Spokane.

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