Powerful winds left thousands without power Saturday, knocked down tree branches across yards and roadways, and ripped shingles off roofs.
Avista said in a news release that the outages started around 10 p.m. Friday, a couple of hours after strong winds started to pummel the region. The peak of the outage was around 3 a.m., when nearly 19,000 customers lost power.
As of about 9:30 a.m. Saturday, some 8,284 of its customers, mostly in remote parts of North Idaho, were still without electricity. That number dwindled to fewer than 3,000 customers at 8 p.m.
Kootenai Electric Cooperative reported 149 customers without power, and Inland Power and Light reported 200 customers without electricity at 8 p.m.
Avista said estimated restoration times are posted at outagemap.myavista.com/external/default.html, but warned customers that they may be without power into Sunday.
The strong winds broke tree branches that fell into power lines, leading to the outages, the utility said. Crews worked to repair damaged power lines Saturday, but Avista warned that more outages could come over the weekend because of snows forecast for the region.
Several Avista vehicles parked outside Kyle Holbrook’s Lincoln Heights home Saturday afternoon.
The top part of a tree broke off and slammed against the side of Holbrook’s house before splitting into another piece that hit his deck, he said. The tree knocked off a large section of his deck railing and fell against a power line near his backyard. His roof may have been damaged from the impact as well, Holbrook said.
He said the loud bang woke him up in the middle of the night.
“I woke up and I honestly thought I might have lost a wall, it was so loud,” Holbrook said.
He said he lost power to appliances, like his microwave and stove, but not to the rest of the house, which “astonished” him.
The National Weather Service said some areas saw gusts over 60 mph, while mountaintops had even more severe winds. Rattlesnake Mountain near the Tri-Cities recorded a gust of 105 mph and Alder Ridge near Walla Walla had one of 82 mph.
In the Spokane area, Felts Field gusts topped out at 62 mph, the Spokane International Airport had 54 mph gusts and the Coeur d’Alene Airport recorded 58 mph gusts, according to Steven Van Horn, meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Spokane office.
Van Horn said the Spokane International Airport is at a higher elevation and typically more exposed to southwest winds, so it was a little unusual to see Felts Field gusts stronger than the ones at the airport on the West Plains.
“It was about what we expected,” Van Horn said of the windstorm. “The top gusts were fairly brief as the cold front came through and now even though it’s still a bit breezy out there, the winds have come down quite a bit.”
Van Horn said high, potentially dangerous winds started to taper after 2 a.m. Saturday in the Spokane area.
Tree branches were down in Paige Morin’s yard in Lincoln Heights, but she said most of them fell during the day on Friday.
Branches across the street from her house broke off during the windstorm, she said.
“It was really, really loud and I could, like, hear branches falling across the street,” Morin said.
“It was loud and scary,” she added.
Morin said she lost power for about 20 minutes Saturday afternoon when conditions were still breezy, but strong gusts from the previous night had already passed.
Gusts reached 39 mph Saturday afternoon at the Spokane International Airport, 32 mph at Felts Field and 29 mph at the Coeur d’Alene Airport, said Greg Koch, meteorologist at the National Weather Service.
The chaos impacted roadways in some parts of the region.
The Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted that State Route 27 near Freeman was closed around 5 a.m. Saturday because of power lines across the road. It opened a few hours later.
The state agency wrote on its Twitter page that there were minor issues on roadways across the region, and that crews were out clearing debris and removing trees.
The Washington State Patrol tweeted early Saturday morning that U.S. Highway 2 at Findley Road, north of Chattaroy, was blocked by downed trees. The highway reopened within an hour.
At the same time, WSP wrote that Pines Road near Mansfield Avenue in Spokane Valley was blocked by a tree.
Elsewhere in the Valley, Van Horn said the weather service received reports of downed trees near Dishman Hills. He said the windstorm broke numerous branches, but the damage was not widespread like with recent windstorms in the Spokane area.
“It was a little bit more sporadic, as far as trees coming down,” Van Horn said.
Heidi Stair and others were cleaning up branches and leaves around her Browne’s Addition residence Saturday afternoon. One man was taking a chainsaw to large branches that fell on Second Avenue between Coeur d’Alene and Poplar streets.
Stair said no trees or branches fell on her condominium, and she did not lose power.
A possibly downed power line was reported less than a block from Stair’s house late Friday night. She said Avista crews responded.
“It was kind of a scene but, hey, nothing was on fire so we’re all good down here,” she said.
Snow and cold temperatures are expected to greet people this week. Van Horn said 1 to 3 inches of snow are estimated Sunday night through Monday morning in the Spokane area.
High temperatures will drop into the lower 30s and upper 20s, and lows will be in the teens starting Monday, according to the National Weather Service website.
S-R staffer Alayna Shulman contributed to this report.
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