The Seattle area saw about 200 lightning strikes in under an hour paired with heavy rain during an unusual September storm that caused some local power outages.
The National Weather Service’s Seattle office tallied the approximately 200 strikes between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. and about 1,250 strikes over the course of the evening.
The storm stopped the University of Washington football game against California at Husky Stadium and caused the Washington State Fair in Puyallup to cancel events and close early.
Shortly after 9 p.m., Seattle City Light was reporting 95 active events affecting 1,337 customers. But spokesman Greg St. Peter at that time described those numbers as inaccurate, with the potentially dangerous strikes preventing City Light crews from carrying out checks.
By about 11 p.m., the utility was reporting 123 active events affecting 4,583 customers, with concentrations in West Seattle and Northeast Seattle. City Light said it wasn’t able yet to provide affected customers with accurate predicted restoration times.
“There have been a whole lot of strikes hitting power lines, hitting transformers,” St. Peter said. “There are have been a lot of momentary outages. But it’s all very sporadic.”
He added, “I think this surprised everyone, but the main thing is that it’s very difficult for our crews to go investigate due to the lightning. It’s too dangerous right now.”
Puget Sound Energy was reporting 135 outrages affecting 19,067 customers as of about 10:30 p.m., with issues spread around the region.
Interstate 5 lanes were affected by water on the roadway, with at least one northbound lane closed Saturday night at a stretch near Mercer Street in Seattle. There were streets with standing water in Kent, according to police there.
Western Washington is rarely hit by such intense lightning, said Art Gaebel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
“It’s quite a bit for this area, obviously,” Gaebel said. “We don’t see this type of weather roll through very often.”
Some area locations saw rain rates approaching half an inch per hour, according to the service.
The service initially thought the storm would stick closer to the Cascade Mountains. But they “drifted west and came through the city,” Gaebel said.
“It’s all associated with a system off the coast spinning around and kicking off storms,” he added. “A lot of ingredients have to come together to get this weather.”
The service Saturday night shared lightning safety tips, advising people outside to take shelter in sturdy buildings or cars with hard-top roofs and warning those outside to avoid hilltops and tall trees.
“3 lightning bolts plus power just hit now at the office. When thunder roars go indoors,” the service posted on Twitter. “Lightning bolt right on top of the office! Stay safe out there.”
The storm was moving north into Skagit and Whatcom counties, and Gaebel said Saturday night they would be over soon.
But rain showers should continue to sprinkle the area through Tuesday, he said.
“We’ll dry out Wednesday and then another system might come back next weekend,” he said.