Wind-toppled trees knocked out power to more customers and necessitated emergency repairs on the 520 bridge early Wednesday.
Damage from last week’s ice storms may have compounded the effects of fierce winds early Wednesday that toppled trees around Western Washington, prompted the closure of the Highway 520 bridge and set back efforts to restore power to homes and businesses.
In the mountains, high avalanche danger continued Wednesday evening as snowfall — heavy at times — was expected to last into Thursday, with possible closures for avalanche-control work.
Wednesday evening, traction tires were required on Stevens Pass and advised on Snoqualmie Pass.
Storm-weary Puget Sound residents may find some relief in the next few days, as scattered showers Thursday are forecast to give way to dry weather Friday and Saturday, before showers return on Sunday. High temperatures in the low 40s are forecast Thursday through Saturday.
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In the early hours Wednesday, gusts of 64 mph were recorded in Bellingham and on Smith Island, west of Oak Harbor. Gusts hit 59 in Ferndale, 58 on Whidbey Island, 50 in Bellevue, 48 in Tacoma and 46 in Seattle, according to Johnny Burg, National Weather Service meteorologist.
In Eastern Washington, gusts of 100 mph were recorded at the Hanford weather station, according to The Associated Press.
While stiff, the winds west of the Cascades were “pretty typical in the kind of storm front we can get in winter,” Burg said. He said ice damage and rain-saturated soils may have made it easier for trees to fall, knocking out power to 38,000 customers of Puget Sound Energy.
Even with the new outages, Puget Sound Energy spokesman Roger Thompson said that by 10 p.m. Wednesday, the utility was down to fewer than 3,000 homes and businesses without power, and many of those should have service by daybreak Thursday.
“We hope we’re writing the final chapter on this thing now,” Thompson said, noting that since the succession of storms began early last week, some 460,000 of the utility’s 1.1 million electrical customers lost power.
Many of the homes without power Wednesday evening were in the Black Lake area on the west edge of Olympia, with others scattered around the Puget Sound area, Thompson said.
The 520 bridge was closed briefly twice early Wednesday after winds knocked some bridge finger plates loose in the westbound lanes. Finger plates are the metal expansion joints between sections of the bridge.
Emergency work closed the bridge for about 30 minutes starting at midnight for repairs to one portion of the span.
About a half-hour later, the bridge was closed again for about 15 minutes for repairs on another portion, according to Jeff Switzer with the state Department of Transportation.
Alarms on the bridge were triggered by the high winds, alerting standby crews that something was wrong, Switzer said.
Bolts holding the finger plates had come loose and needed to be replaced.
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or email@example.com