Well over 100,000 customers are preparing for a third night without power in Washington state after a storm killed three people and prompted an emergency declaration from the Governor.
Gov. Jay Inslee cleared the way for state officials to increase aid to those with storm damage by declaring a state of emergency Wednesday for all Washington counties.
Winds on Tuesday exceeded 100 mph in some areas of the Inland Northwest.
A 54-year-old identified as Lea Anne Scott was killed when a tree fell in Spokane. Grant M. Strinden, 23, died when a tree crushed his car as he was driving in Snohomish County, authorities said, and a third victim, Carolyn M. Wilford, 70, was killed when a tree landed on her car on Highway 904 about 15 miles southwest of Spokane.
Fallen trees blocked streets and slowed commutes in Spokane, and officials asked people to stay home and off roadways if possible.
Allen Kam, with the National Weather Service in Seattle, said the rain last weekend may have saturated soil, making it easier for the winds to topple trees.
Avista Corp. on Thursday evening was still working to restore power to over 85,000 customers, most in Spokane County and northern Idaho.
The utility said customers who lost power on Tuesday could go up to five days without electricity. Crews were expected to work around the clock until service was restored and shelters were opening to provide heat and power.
“This is the largest crisis Avista has experienced in the company’s 126-year history,” the company said in a news release. Officials estimated 700 miles of overhead power lines were damaged.
Public schools in Spokane closed on Wednesday and Thursday and will remain closed Friday, except for a handful opening as warming and power locations.
Puget Sound Energy, serving Seattle and areas of Western Washington, said more than 30 transmission lines were badly damaged and about 100,000 customers were without power early Wednesday. That number had dropped to about 3,000 by Thursday night.
North of Seattle, the Snohomish County Public Utility District said 26,000 remained without power Thursday.
Flood-waters had started to recede on Western Washington rivers by Wednesday afternoon and King County closed its flood warning centre.
Department of Transportation officials announced Thursday that U.S. Highway 2 between Skykomish and the summit at Stevens Pass will remain closed to traffic through the weekend and likely through Wednesday as crews work to fix a bridge damaged by the storm.
The strong winds and extended downpour caused fewer problems in Oregon, but roughly 1,000 Portland General Electric customers remained without power in the area Thursday night.
Wind gusts around 100 mph rattled areas west and north of Denver, blowing snow from Tuesday’s wintery storm across roads and knocking out power.
The storm dumped over a foot of snow in some parts of the Plains and winds created snow drifts several feet high.