Local news

More than 60,000 without power after latest storm

Linda Lee Kershner uses a rake to unclog a storm drain at the intersection of Rifle Club Rd. and Woodside. Houses in the Westgate neighborhood  are without power after a strong Thunderstorm blew through north Spokane Saturday evening. (Colin Mulvany)
Linda Lee Kershner uses a rake to unclog a storm drain at the intersection of Rifle Club Rd. and Woodside. Houses in the Westgate neighborhood are without power after a strong Thunderstorm blew through north Spokane Saturday evening. (Colin Mulvany)

Another strong thunderstorm hit the northern parts of Spokane and Spokane County Saturday evening, downing trees and power lines and sparking many brush fires.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said every resource available in Spokane County Fire District 4 was out fighting fires and resources from other districts were coming to the district’s assistance.

Some residents were evacuated near a fire at Jim Hill Road and Highway 2, Knezovich said, but the largest blaze was a two-alarm brush fire near Day-Mt. Spokane and Randall roads. No size estimate was available by 9 p.m. Saturday. The state Department of Natural Resources said the largest fire its crews were working on was about 40 acres.

Avista Utilities was reporting more than 48,000 customers without power in Spokane, Davenport, Deer Park and Colville Saturday night. Inland Power and Light reported more than 2,000 customers without power.

Northern Lights Electric in North Idaho is reporting 9,500 customers, mostly in Bonner County, especially near Sandpoint, without power. Kootenai Electric Cooperative is reporting more than 2,000 customers without power.

Trees blocked many roads, including Francis Avenue near Salk Middle School and Wall Street south of Country Homes Blvd. As darkness fell, many of the downed trees were difficult to see and posed a danger to drivers.

“We have a lot of trees and things down,” Knezovich said.

Dozens of trees fell at Whitworth University. One fell on Cowles Auditorium and a large pine tree crumbled the brick façade on the west end of Warren Hall. About 20 trees fell on campus and four of them hit buildings, said Jeremiah White of Whitworth’s Facilities Services Department.

Several youth sports camps were being held on campus, but no one was injured, White said. The college was using several generators Saturday night to provide power to campus buildings.

Whitworth officials are asking people to stay off campus. Several trees are leaning dangerously, White said. Several campus roads are blocked, including the main entrance.

One tree dealt a blow to the roof of the Whitworth Presbyterian Church. The ceiling inside buckled and some roof trusses are likely damaged, said the Rev. Daniel White. “It’s unsafe for people to be inside,” he said.

The pastor called a quick meeting to plan two abbreviated outdoor services for today at 9 and 11 a.m.

The church has a small emergency fund but there’s no way to know yet how expensive repairs will be, the pastor said. “I don’t know what happens beyond (Sunday),” he said.

The storm blew through less than two weeks after another strong storm in the same area cut power to about 60,000 power customers. Many were without power for several days.

Avista spokeswoman Jessie Wuerst said the last storm caused the worst damage to Avista’s power infastructue since the infamous 1996 ice storm. She said the power company was scrambling crews Saturday evening to assess the damage from the new storm. The worst damage appeared to be in many of the same areas hit July 23, she said.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Bob Tobin said the highest wind gust report from the storm was 68 mph near Wellpinit. Most of the higher gusts were measured in the 35 to 45 mph range, though Felts Field measured a gust of 48 mph and the airport in Sandpoint had a gust of 56 mph.

Tobin said while the weather service received some reports of heavy rain, many places had no rain or only trace amounts. Felts Field and Spokane International Airport had no rain from the storm. Coeur d’Alene had less than a tenth of an inch.

This Story was reported by Nina Culver and Jonathan Brunt.

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