The Puget Sound region saw wind gusts in the 60 mph range, and though the storm’s intensity ebbed by night, rising rivers threatened homes and lowlands.
Three people died and several hundred thousand lost power in a fierce windstorm that ripped across Washington state, causing major river flooding, highway mudslides and road closures throughout Tuesday.
The storm’s strong winds turned deadly in the afternoon, when the system peaked in the Seattle metro area.
The first reported fatality, around 2 p.m., occurred in the Monroe area, where a tree fell on a car, killing the man inside. No one else was injured when the tree came down along the Ben Howard Road between Monroe and Sultan, Snohomish County Fire District 5 Chief Merlin Halverson said. The man was believed to be in his 20s.
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Less than two hours later, a tree fell in Spokane and killed a woman in her 50s, police reported. A woman driving in the area also died after a tree fell over Highway 904, about 5 miles east of Cheney, according to a Washington State Patrol spokesman.
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Medical investigators had not yet identified them.
A man, believed to be in his late 50s, was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle around 4:20 p.m. with severe burns after he touched an electrified fence at his home in Sultan, Halverson said. Wind knocked a power line onto the fence about 600 feet away, sending “tens of thousands” of volts through him, Halverson said.
A young man tried helping him before medics arrived, and Halverson said he’s surprised the young man was not also injured.
The region saw wind gusts in the 60 mph range throughout the day, continuing a pattern of on-again, off-again storms for days across the state. More than 300,000 electrical customers were without power in the region.
Rainfall in Seattle and the surrounding area was relatively low, about 1.25 inches since Monday afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Burke said.
And though the Tuesday storm’s intensity ebbed by night, rising rivers still threatened homes and lowlands.
The Washington Military Department and its Emergency Management Division expected the Chehalis River at Doty, Lewis County, to flood overnight, potentially impacting homes and commercial areas. The agency also predicted the Dungeness River at Sequim, on the Olympic Peninsula, would flood roads and pastures into the evening.
About 14 areas across Western Washington were under flood warnings Tuesday night, which means flooding is imminent or occurring. In King County, Snoqualmie River flooding was severe; Tolt and Cedar rivers had minor flooding.
“If you live near a river, you better be taking action right now,” Burke said in the early evening. Most of the region remains in a flood watch until Wednesday evening.
Though Tuesday’s rains were not particularly heavy, saturated ground and the flooding rivers posed a continued danger of mudslides, threatening roadways.
Two mudslides blocked Highway 2 between Skykomish and Deception Falls, for instance, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
Video: Waves crash in West SeattleHigh winds and waves hit KIRO's David Ham as he reports from West Seattle during Tuesday's storm. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
Another slide closed the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) near Newhalem, a Seattle City Light company town and part of the utility’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project. The slide was blocking access to Diablo, another company town.
Transportation crews were working to clear fallen trees and affected areas, ending a series of road closures, though it was unclear when some would reopen, WSDOT spokesman Justin Fujioka said.
“Things can change overnight,” Fujioka said.
Wednesday-morning commuters should plan ahead in case their routes are affected, he said.
Public-utility crews were also swamped with various power outages. The number of those affected changed nearly by the minute as crews scrambled to deal with limbs and trees on power lines.
As the storm subsided, forecasters predicted drier and less-windy weather to move through the Seattle area, continuing a pattern that could last into next week, Burke said.
Besides Friday, the upcoming days carry chances for showers and cloudy skies, an outlook that overall looks “pretty nice,” he said.