High winds, mountain snows hits Northwest

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SEATTLE (AP) — 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 storm is headed east along the U.S.-Canada border, said meteorologist Danny Mercer.

“It doesn’t look like a big snow or wind producer for the rest of the U.S. It looks like the biggest impact was here,” he said.

But another storm is splitting off from that — “part of the same trough” — and heading south. It’s likely to bring snow along the Rockies, include the Boulder-Denver area, late today into Wednesday, Mercer said.

Wet snow pellets that looked like hail hit an area of south Everett during the Monday evening commute, depositing ice along Interstate 5, said Greg Phipps, a Washington state Transportation Department spokesman. That snarled commuter traffic in both directions.

Snowy conditions contributed to the death of a Kennewick man on Monday night. Cristoval Martinez, 38, was killed in a collision with a truck in snow and slush on Interstate 90 eight miles east of Cle Elum.

The Washington State Patrol says Martinez lost control of his car and rear-ended a semi-truck.

Snow delayed the opening of school or altered bus routes in some suburban Portland and other northwest Oregon districts.

The Oregonian reports schedule changes at schools in Washington Clackamas, Columbia, Marion, Yamhill, Linn, Polk and Benton as well as schools on both sides of the river in the Columbia River Gorge.

Heavy snow fell in the mountains. Accumulations from the storm that started Sunday were likely to total 2 to 3 feet by this morning in the Washington Cascades, said meteorologist Ted Buehner in Seattle.

Snow is already on the ground in parts of Eastern Washington, including Spokane, but downtown streets were clear by Monday afternoon.

The National Weather Service says scattered snow showers in Eastern Washington today will be followed by heavy snow Wednesday and Thursday. Accumulations of 4 to 8 inches are expected north of Highway 2. In the Spokane area, 3 to 5 inches are possible by Wednesday night with another 1 to 3 inches possible Thursday.

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

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

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 brought tree limbs down on power lines. Seattle City Light had 11,000 customers out of service at one time. Puget Sound Energy had 17,000 power failures, mostly in the south King County area, southeast of Seattle.

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

Wind speeds of more than 60 mph were reported in Eastern Washington at Pullman on Monday morning, and power company Avista reported thousands of customers without power in its large service area. Winds of more than 50 mph were reported in Spokane, and a tree fell on two homes. No injuries were reported.

Winds delayed work on the Hanford nuclear reservation in southeast Washington. A large accumulation of tumbleweeds blocked some roadways, the Tri-City Herald reported. Washington Closure Hanford canceled outdoor environmental cleanup work because of the winds.

Officials at the Seaside, Ore., Aquarium say strong winds pushed two sea turtles ashore along the north Oregon coast. Both are being treated for hypothermia and it’s unknown whether they’ll survive.

One was found Monday on the beach at Seaside and the other was found at Gearhart.

Aquarium staffers say it’s remarkable if two sea turtles wash ashore in the area in a year, so two in one day is startling.

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