Deadly winds howl across Pacific NW

BY SUSAN KIM | Seattle | January 17, 2000

A deadly windstorm swept through the Pacific Northwest Sunday, killing at least two people, damaging homes, and leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity.

Many people woke up with no heat, with freezing temperatures made worse by roof damage caused by wind that gusted up to 115 mph in some coastal areas.

One person was killed when a tree fell on his vehicle and another died in an avalanche when hiking in a closed area at the Crystal Mountain ski resort.

Emergency management officials report that avalanche danger was high because snow already on the ground is being weighed down by rain

and wet snow.

Interstate 90, the major thoroughfare between Seattle and Spokane, was shut down Sunday. Emergency road crews purposely triggered small, controlled avalanches to offset the danger of large ones sweeping down the mountainsides.

Monday, although many roads are lightly crusted with ice, residents are out cleaning up blown-down trees and other debris.

In Seaside, OR, where wind gusts of 114 mph were reported, many residents are still without power. Coral Cook, a member of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, came to the church, which had power, to get warm early Monday morning.

"I live five miles from here but I don't have power," she said, adding that a lot of her roofing blew off during the storm.

"It didn't rain t oday so I don't know if there will be leaking or not. A lot of people had roofs completely off."

Sunday services at the church were interrupted when the power flicked off four separate times, she said. "Also, the church is right across from the convention center, and we all saw this huge red thing flying through the air. It turned out to be the cover for the computer scoreboard, so we just wrapped it together and kept it there until we could give it back."

Debris was flying everywhere, she added. "We have these huge trash can lids that blew off, and they were going so fast I was worried they

would hit someone crossing the street."

Cook's daughter, 23, who has Down's Syndrome, was frightened by the noisy wind. So were many other residents, even though Washington

and Oregon commonly get high winds this time of year.

"My daughter didn't like being home yesterday," said Cook. "And today, because the power was out, the smoke detector was beeping, and that scared her, too."

Some agencies that normally offer disaster relief services were delayed because of the widespread power outage. The Salvation Army in Seaside lost power at 11 a.m. Sunday morning and is still in the dark, said Caroline Long, envoy.

"We have a soup kitchen but no way to run it without power," she said. "We're going to have to get in our vehicles to warm up."

Power outages were so localized that, across a fence that runs through part of Seaside, residents could see that their neighbors had power, she added.

Seaside is only a few miles away from Cannon Beach, OR, where the storm's highest gusts -- 115 mph -- were reported. A gust of 81 mph at

Netarts, OR, reportedly knocked a house off its foundation.

Meanwhile the Salvation Army in Olympia, WA, was up and running. "We regularly provide Meals on Wheels to seniors, so our delivery routes will be checking on seniors to make sure they have power," said Mike Oravits, coordinator.

Sunday there were 400,000 people without power in western Washington and Oregon, though utility officials report that all but a few hundred

should be back up by Monday evening.

In Oregon, the U.S. Coast Guard spent Sunday night handling a 396-foot barge that broke free from its tugboat. Dan Shipman, officer in

charge, said he saw "extremely heavy seas, 40-foot seas with wind gusts of 100 mph."

"The barge was threatening to come ashore throughout the night but we managed to reconnect it to the tow line."

The winds also forced emergency officials to close the floating bridge that joins Seattle with its suburbs to the east. About 100,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily. But residents could still use the Interstate 90 floating bridge three miles away.

In Puyallup, Olympia, and Enumclaw, where many people were without power Sunday, electricity was back on for most people on Monday.

"There are a lot of broken branches and a lot of debris," said resident Heather Hecker.

For many residents, the weather was the worst this year so far, but not as bad as last year. "It was a big wind storm, but it wasn't as big as last year," said resident Lisa Konick.

Last year, in Washington state, of the 120 days from November through February, 92 were rainy.

Forecasters have predicted this type of severe weather, as this year is the second straight year of the La Nina weather phenomenon. With

snowfall well-packed into the mountain passes, residents could face more high winds, as well as flooding, heavy seas, rain, and snowmelt.

When storms hover off the Pacific northwest coast, high winds can generate huge seas around the mouth of the Columbia River. During high

tide, inlets on the Washington coast are at high risk for flooding.

Emergency officials have been cautioning residents to tune into emergency radio channels and news reports.

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