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Washington

Washington state governor declares state of emergency after storm kills 3, leaves thousands without power

Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency Wednesday in Washington state after days of rain and a powerful storm Tuesday 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 54-year-old identified as Lea Anne Scott was killed when a tree fell in Spokane. A man in his mid-20s died when a tree crushed his car as he was driving in Snohomish County, authorities said. His identity was not yet available.

The third victim, identified by authorities as Carolyn M. Wilford, 70, died of head injuries after a tree landed on her car on Highway 904 about 15 miles southwest of Spokane.

Inslee's emergency proclamation covers all Washington counties, clearing the way for state officials to ramp up aid to those with storm damage.

Crews in Spokane were working to clear at least 175 fallen trees Wednesday that blocked streets and slowed the morning commute. Officials were still asking people to stay home and off roadways Wednesday night if possible.

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.

Avista Corp. was trying to restore power to some 118,000 customers, most in Spokane County and northern Idaho.

The utility said customers who lost power Tuesday should be prepared to go three to five days without electricity. Crews were expected to work around the clock until service was restored.

"This is the largest crisis Avista has experienced in the company's 126-year history," Avista said in a news release.

An estimated 700 miles of overhead power lines were damaged by the wind storm, the company said.

In Portland, Oregon, an 80-year-old woman spent the night trapped in bed after a tree fell on her home and missed her by inches during the wind storm.

When firefighters arrived, the woman told them she had a few scratches but wasn't hurt.

Public schools were closed in Spokane and officials said they'd be closed again on Thursday. Nearby Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, smaller districts as well as Gonzaga, Whitworth, Washington State-Spokane and Eastern Washington universities were shut down Wednesday. 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.

Puget Sound Energy said more than 30 transmission lines were badly damaged and about 100,000 customers were without power early Wednesday. Officials said that number had dropped to about 30,000 by Wednesday evening and predicted most would regain power by Thursday. The Snohomish County Public Utility District started the day with about 130,000 customers lacking power and by Wednesday evening tweeted that 42,000 remained.

Floodwaters had started to recede Wednesday afternoon and King County closed their flood warning center.

Firefighters and police rescued two women trapped Wednesday evening in high water after they ignored a road closure and drove into standing water near Bellingham.

The strong winds and extended downpour caused fewer problems in Oregon, but roughly 2,000 Portland General Electric customers remained without power in the Portland area Wednesday afternoon.

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.