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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Windstorm closes schools; 380,000 without power

From staff reports

About 380,000 people are without power in the wake of a brutal windstorm that toppled hundreds of trees and killed two women.

City and county officials said Wednesday afternoon the initial emergency response had ended for the devastating windstorm, and urged residents to be safe and patient as an anticipated weekslong clean-up effort begins.

“First responders, street responders, utility responders have done an amazing job,” said Spokane Mayor David Condon at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve seen it firsthand over the last 24 hours and continuing today.”

Condon said he’d received an aerial tour of Spokane, where neighborhoods adjacent to each other showed different levels of damage. Some had blown over trees, downed power lines and closed businesses, others were operating smoothly.

As dawn broke Wednesday morning neighbors emerged to find towering ponderosa pines tossed into powerlines and across streets.

Avista has received thousands of calls and said the 2015 windstorm surpassed the outage numbers seen in the 1996 Ice Storm.

Residents are asked to stay clear of fallen trees as hidden power lines - some of which may still be energized - could be underneath.

Inland Power and Avista officials said Wednesday it’s likely to be three to five days before power is fully restored.

Temperatures will fall below freezing Wednesday night, and emergency response agencies are expecting tens of thousands of people to be without power. People without power should find friends or family to shelter with, said Kim Papich, spokeswoman with the Spokane Regional Health District.

National Weather Service reports these top gusts from Tuesday: 71 mph in Spokane; 115 mph on Mission Ridge; and 137 mph in the Wenatchee Mountains.

Avista officials said their crews would prioritize power restoration first to essential community services such as health care then go to work on damage to high-voltage transmission lines. After that, crews will move into densely populated areas before fanning out.

Extra contractor crews were expected to arrive in the region to help out. In addition, crews on other Avista projects were being shifted to power repair.

We’ve compiled information about available resources and answers to common questions below. Anyone needing services, including shelter or help with medical conditions requiring power, can call 211 for more information.


In the city of Spokane, at least 200 trees were blocking city streets Wednesday morning. To view a map of downed tree locations, go to

The city has recommended residents contact a licensed arborist to remove downed trees. For a list, click here.

The Spokane County Regional Solid Waste System announced today that it will accept vegetation free at two transfer stations at 22123 N. Elk-Chattaroy Road off U.S. Highway 2 and the Valley Transfer Station at 3941 N. Sullivan Road.

Wood debris must be less than six feet long and three inches in diameter to be accepted at the Spokane County facilities, officials said.

Also, the city is accepting tree waste and other vegetation at the Waste to Energy Plant, 2900 S. Geiger Road.

The city of Spokane this morning announced steps to help the community clean up storm debris.

Curbside pickup of vegetation in green yard waste bins will be extended for two additional weeks through Dec. 18. Branches must be smaller than three inches in diameter.

For larger debris, or for those without a green bin, the city will accept the material for free at the Northside Landfill, 5502 W. Nine Mile Road, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sunday.

Debris may also be taken to the Waste to Energy facility, 2900 S. Geiger Blvd., for free through Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Commercial services should take debris to the Northside Landfill.

The city also reminded residents that it will only clear debris and broken trees from the streets. Debris in yards is the responsibility of property owners.

Also, those living outside the city should contact their local government agency.

The city’s downed tree hotline is 625-7733.


Spokane Valley was also hit hard by Tuesday’s windstorm. Wednesday morning power remains out in large parts of the city and crews are working on clearing major streets of falling trees and signs first, then hitting the neighborhood streets.

City manager Mike Jackson said the city received 60 phone calls overnight from residents reporting trees and power lines down. To report downed trees or power outages in Spokane Valley, call 921-1000.


A Twin Lakes man has been transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in critical condition after a tree fell on his truck. The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said 22-year-old Jordan S. Simon was injured Tuesday around 5 p.m. in the 8900 block of Twin Lakes Road north of Rathdrum.

Kootenai County crews are assessing damage throughout the Coeur d’Alene area.

An equestrian center, called the big red barn, on Lacey Avenue in Hayden had the roof blown off.


Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital report large numbers of patients in emergency rooms and urgent care centers.

Many medical clinics are not open today because of power outages.

Providence urges people who need prompt medical help that does not require emergency care to use Urgent Care Centers rather than hospital emergency departments.

Urgent care centers are open until 8 p.m.

Public health officials and first responders are working with volunteers to contact the estimated 4,000 medically vulnerable people in Spokane County who rely on power for oxygen, dialysis or other medical procedures. The majority of those people are senior citizens.

Officials are asking people who depend on power for medical care not to go to the emergency room. Instead, they should call 211, their health care provider or a local fire station to have someone dispatched to help them.

Those with medical concerns and in need of shelter from the cold should go to the American Red Cross shelter at the Girl Scout Headquarters in West Central. The address is 1404 N. Ash Street.


Several warming centers are operating in Spokane, and people from outlying areas are welcome to use them. Current locations are:

  • Salvation Army, 222 E. Indiana Avenue
  • Red Cross at the Girl Scouts building, 1404 N. Ash St.
  • Spokane Valley Assembly of God Church, 15618 E Broadway
  • Cheney United Methodist Church

“We’ll be here as long as we’re needed, until power is restored,” said Adam Taylor, shelter manager at the Girl Scouts location. Hot meals were on order, Taylor said, and residents could come get a snack or charge their electronic devices if they needed. The shelter is across the parking lot from the main Girl Scouts warehouse.

Megan Snow, spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said the shelters would prioritize housing those with no other options.

“While they’re open to anyone in the community who’s been affected, we’d really like to focus on the fact that, these are shelters for residents who really have no place to live at this point,” she said.

If residents are looking for places to charge their electronic devices, they should visit one of the Spokane Public Library locations that are open during the day, Snow said.

Those living in outlying areas of the county who are in need of assistance should call 211, the Washington Information Network, officials said.


The Spokane Valley Library, 12004 E. Main Ave., is open and has charging stations for electronics.

The county library branch in Cheney, 610 First St., and the North Spokane Library, 44 E. Hawthorne Road, are also open. All other county libraries are closed as of 10:30 a.m. They will reopen as power is restored.

All but four county libraries will be open normal hours on Thursday. The libraries still without power are Argonne, Deer Park, Moran Prairie and Fairfield.

Four Spokane Public Library branches were open Wednesday. They have power, computers to use, and power strips to enable people to charge cellphones.

The open branches are: Downtown, East Side and Shadle until 8 p.m.; Indian Trail until 6 p.m.

The Shadle COPS shop and fire stations 4 and 18 are also open for device charging on Thursday.

The Shadle COPS shop is at 2215 W. Wellesley Ave. Fire Station 4 is located at 1515 W. First Ave. in Browne’s Addition. Fire Station 18 is located at 120 E. Lincoln St.

The Hillyard and South Hill branches were closed Wednesday and do not have power.

Those in the unincorporated areas of Spokane County can contact their local fire districts for non-emergency questions. Brett Anderson, a prevention lieutenant for Spokane County Fire District 10, said the station’s doors at 929 S. Garfield Road would be open for those seeking to charge their devices.

“We try to help where we can,” he said.


Spokane Public Schools chose to cancel classes again Thursday due to extensive damage.

The Central Valley School District will reopen all but six of its schools: Bowdish Middle School, Greenacres Elementary, Greenacres Middle School, Opportunity Elementary and Ponderosa Elementary.

So are colleges: Gonzaga, Eastern, and Whitworth.

Spokane Falls Community College was open Wednesday.

Schools are closed around the region.

Spokane Public Schools reported Wednesay morning that 34 schools were completely or partially without power. School officials are still evaluating whether they will open Thursday. Check here for the latest updates.


Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services is without power, but the shelter is still accepting animals through 4 p.m., said Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter, county spokeswoman.

“With fences down, we’ve got a lot of animals running around,” she said.

If you find an animal, have an emergency or are looking for your lost pet, call (509) 477-2533.


Food left in a refrigerator without power that’s been above 40 degrees for more than four hours should be thrown away, especially dairy and meat products, Spokane Regional Health District spokeswoman Kim Papich said.

Food in a full freezer is good for 48 hours without power, and food in a half-full freezer can last a day.

There are no health concerns about city drinking water during the power outage.


Fire officials are asking people to keep flammable things away from stoves and heaters to avoid fires as power is restored. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, people should not operate generators or burn charcoal inside and should not use stoves or ovens for heating.

Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams said 911 call volume has dropped from a high Tuesday evening. Dispatchers received 2,389 calls between 1 and 9 p.m. Tuesday, with a peak load of 613 calls in one hour. Crime Check received 804 calls in the same period.

Williams said the fire department received between 500 and 1,000 calls for non-life threatening situations Tuesday that were not dispatched because of the high volume. Firefighters are working to follow up on those calls Wednesday.


The woman who died in Tuesday’s windstorm after a tree fell on her car on State Route 904 near Cheney was identified as Carolyn M. Wilford, 70.

Wilford died from her injuries at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.

The identity of a second woman killed by a falling tree during the storm has not yet been released.


Tuesday’s storm ravaged exhibits that were being assembled for the second-annual Spokane Winter Glow Spectacular, scheduled to open at 6 p.m. Nov. 27.

A Geiger detention center work release crew was dispatched to the park on Wednesday to help repair damage to exhibits that were being readied for the holiday light show.

“It’s give-back to the community,” said work release Officer Todd Rosengrant.

Also in the park, workers were disassembling displays from the Chinese Lantern Festival, but those displays occupy spaces that the winter glow festival wants to use for its light arrays.

Jerry Schmidt, Winter Glow director, said he is expanding exhibits this year and the storm is complicating the job.

A new car loaned to Winter Glow by a rental company was destroyed at the park when a tree fell on it, Schmidt said. The vehicle had just been delivered to the event.

“Talk about bad luck,” Schmidt said.

Sam Song, Riverfront Park director, said 27 trees fell in the park. Some of them were broken high up on their trunks and others uprooted. Spruce trees were among the most vulnerable.

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