SEATTLE – At least three people have died and hundreds of thousands were without power on Tuesday as a severe storm packing high winds unleashed across the Northwest.
Police said a woman in her 50s was killed when a tree toppled taking down power lines as it fell in Spokane on Tuesday afternoon. Fire crews were unable to resuscitate the woman.
Another woman died after a tree fell on her car on Highway 904 about 15 miles southwest of Spokane, according to the Washington State Patrol.
A man in his mid-20s was killed when a tree crushed his car as he was driving near Sultan in Snohomish County. The tree landed on the car's roof directly over the driver's seat, killing him instantly, said Fire Chief Merlin Halverson.
Their identities were not immediately released.
Puget Sound Energy reported nearly 178,000 customers without power in its Western Washington region Tuesday night as trees toppled onto roadways and power lines. An electrical power failure at a Tacoma sewer treatment plant resulted in waste water sewage discharging for a short time into the lower Puyallup River.
Two mudslides blocked Highway 2 between Skykomish and Deception Falls, the state Department of Transportation said. Ferry trips were delayed or canceled in several areas and Sound Transit trains were delayed due to trees and water on the tracks throughout the system.
Area rivers were also flooding from the Snohomish River near Monroe to the Snoqualmie River in King County. About 40 miles northeast of Seattle, Skykomish River was flooding downtown Sultan, prompting residents and business owners to place sand bags and leave for the night.
The Washington State Patrol temporarily closed Interstate 90 between the towns of George and Vantage in central Washington after winds whipped up a dust storm.
The National Weather Service issued a windstorm warning that began noon Tuesday and ran until midnight for most of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.
The Weather Service said a Pacific storm system would arrive Tuesday afternoon, with sustained winds of 45 mph and with gusts up to 70 mph in certain areas including Spokane. Rattlesnake Mountain, a 3,500-foot ridge that overlooks the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southwestern Washington, saw wind gusts as high as 113 mph, the Tri-City Herald reported (http://goo.gl/cmSEN6).
Energy company Avista Corp. said more than 136,000 customers had lost power as of Tuesday night around Spokane and in Northern Idaho. Flights into and out of Spokane International Airport were canceled or delayed Tuesday evening.
The Cheney and Spokane campuses of Eastern Washington University closed Tuesday afternoon because of high winds.
The National Weather Service said the storm also brought heavy snow to the Methow Valley in north-central Washington.
In Oregon, thousands were without power in the greater Portland area and a flood watch was issued for the northern Oregon coast through Wednesday. State officials said heavy rain caused Portland's sewer system to overflow into the Willamette River and residents were urged to avoid contact with the river through Thursday evening.
More than 20 fallen trees closed eastbound Interstate 84 Tuesday night between exit 17 at Troutdale and exit 64 at Hood River for debris removal. Oregon Department of Transportation officials said they expected the closure to last until about noon Wednesday.
Around the country Tuesday, a powerful storm dumped heavy snow on parts of Colorado while bringing the threat of tornadoes to millions in central and southern states. Much of Interstate 70, Colorado's main east-west highway, was closed because of blizzard conditions on the state's Eastern Plains as well as in northwest Kansas, where up to 15 inches of snow and heavy winds are in the forecast.
Early Tuesday, two weak tornadoes touched down in the northern suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to the National Weather Service. No one was injured.
The storm that originated in the Gulf of Alaska could be a harbinger of El Nino, the ocean-warming phenomenon that's predicted to bring heavy rain to the West in the coming months, said Kathy Hoxsie of the National Weather Service.