180,000 Washington Residents Still Without Power 6 Days After Windstorm

Residents of communities still in the dark after the Northwest's worst windstorm in a decade have grown more frustrated and hope power will be restored in time for Christmas.

More than 180,000 homes and businesses were still without power Tuesday after last week's storm, which knocked out 1.5 million customers at its peak.

Eileen Shields and the residents of about 200 other homes in Upper Preston, a rural enclave in the Cascade foothills 25 miles east of Seattle, said restoration efforts were slow. Utility officials warned some communities would need restoration work through the weekend.

"They're telling us we're the last on the list," Shields said. "No showers, no water, no power."

Puget Sound Energy, the state's largest utility, took out full-page newspaper advertisements to tell readers its crews were working as hard as they could, but that the damage to the electrical system was monumental. "In many areas, we are literally having to rebuild the system, from the substation to people's doors," the advertisement said.

The storm that hit last Thursday night and Friday morning brought heavy rain and winds that gusted to nearly 70 mph in Seattle, snapping utility poles and thick trees. Fourteen deaths have been blamed on the storm in Oregon and Washington, many of them due to carbon monoxide poisoning from people running generators in their powerless homes in the days that followed.

In suburban Bellevue, crews from Wyoming and Montana worked on a tangle of downed power lines. But even when the lines were strung up, the power still wouldn't flow into the neighborhood: There was another trouble spot about a mile up the road.

"It's just horrific compared to what I've seen before," said Rich Adams, the foreman on the job. "We could all be working Christmas, it looks like."

Estimates of the total monetary damage from the storm were not expected for several weeks, but AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe-risk company based in Boston, said its modeling showed that insured losses could top $500 million.