3 dead, thousands without power after high winds rake the Northwest

Cleanup crews took to the streets Wednesday in Washington state after a powerful storm killed three people, cut power to more than 350,000 residents and flooded rivers.

The winds on Tuesday exceeded 100 mph in some areas of the Inland Northwest, where fallen trees were blamed for the deaths.

A woman in her 50s was killed when a tree fell in Spokane. Another woman died after a tree landed on her car on Highway 904 about 15 miles southwest of Spokane, and a man in his mid-20s died when a tree crushed his car as he was driving in Snohomish County, authorities said.

The identities of the three people were not immediately released.

Crews in Spokane were working to clear at least 175 fallen trees that blocked streets and slowed the morning commute.

Meanwhile, Avista Corp. was trying to restore service to more than 142,000 customers, most in Spokane County and northern Idaho. Crews were expected to work around the clock until all service was restored.

Public schools were closed in Spokane, nearby Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and smaller districts. Also shut down were Gonzaga, Whitworth, Washington State-Spokane and Eastern Washington universities.

The National Weather Service said the unusually ferocious winds were caused by the jet stream interacting with the mountains. Gusts reached 100 mph near Wenatchee and 80 mph near Mattawa.

Spokane International Airport reported a top wind speed of 71 mph. The airport near Pullman saw 69 mph winds.

The National Weather Service said the winds would give way to rain and chillier temperatures.

Allen Kam, with the National Weather Service in Seattle, said rain last weekend may have saturated soil, making it easier for the winds to topple trees.

Elsewhere, two mudslides blocked Highway 2 between Skykomish and Deception Falls, the state Department of Transportation said.

Ferry trips were canceled in several areas and Sound Transit trains were delayed due to trees and water on the tracks throughout the system.

Puget Sound Energy said more than 30 transmission lines were badly damaged and about 100,000 customers were still without power early Wednesday. The Snohomish County Public Utility District tweeted that about 130,000 of its customers lacked power.

The strong winds and extended downpour caused fewer problems in Oregon, but roughly 7,000 Portland General Electric customers remained without power in the Portland area.

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 in some spots.

The storm dumped over a foot of snow in some parts of the plains and strong winds created snow drifts several feet high.