Fox News Weather Center

Gusty winds knock out power as storm leaves heavy snow in Northwest mountains


This NOAA satellite image taken Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, at 02:00 PM EST, shows a frontal system moving into the Pacific Northwest and northern California bringing rain and heavy mountain snow. Snow will continue to fall over the Great Basin as the system moves eastward. A cold front moving south over the Northern Plains will bring snow showers. (AP Photo/Weather Underground) (The Associated Press)

The strongest Northwest storm of the season blew in early Monday on winds that gusted to more than 80 mph on the coast, knocking out power in places and creating blizzard-like conditions in the mountains.

The highest winds hit Sunday evening with an 84 mph gust recorded at the mouth of the Columbia River and an 81 mph gust on the central Oregon coast, said meteorologist Scott Weishaar in Portland.

Winds early Monday hit 60 mph on the Washington coast and 55 mph in the south Puget Sound area, said meteorologist Ted Buehner in Seattle.

Winds brought tree limbs down on power lines. Seattle City Light had 11,000 customers out of service at one time. Crews had all but 4,100 back by 8 a.m., said spokesman Peter Clarke. Puget Sound Energy had 17,000 outages, mostly in the south King County area, southeast of Seattle, said spokeswoman Julia Hughes.

Portland General Electric responded to dozens of power outages in the metro area. Pacific Power had about 10,000 outages throughout western Oregon.

Winds knocked a tree onto a home in Lakewood, Wash., near where a 2-year-old was sleeping, but it missed the baby's crib. Winds also were blamed for sinking two boats on Lake Washington at Kirkland, Wash., and the fire department helped two people who were sleeping on one of the boats, KOMO Radio reported.

Heavy snow fell in the mountains. Accumulations from the storm that started Sunday are likely to total 2 to 3 feet by Tuesday morning in the Washington Cascades, Buehner said.

Snow is already on the ground in parts of Eastern Washington, including Spokane, where another inch or two was forecast Monday.

"A wide variety of winter weather is clearly affecting the entire state," Buehner said. "It's the strongest storm of the year, so far."

Snow accumulations in the Oregon Cascades will total 1 to 2 feet, Weishaar said.

Four construction workers at a cellphone tower project on Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon were stranded when their snow cat became stuck in a drift Saturday. They waded through waist-deep snow to reach a heated shelter with electricity.

Harney County rescuers were turned back Sunday by white-out conditions. Rescuers were waiting for a break in the weather to make another attempt, KOIN reported.


Tim Fought in Portland contributed to this report.