Some parts of Oregon saw gusts of nearly 100 mph early Wednesday. Winds were lower — but still concerning — in Western Washington.
While some parts of the Pacific Northwest struggled with heavy snowfall Wednesday morning, others were more worried about strong winds.
Hurricane-force gusts rattled the Oregon Coast in the early morning hours, toppling trees and triggering scores of minor mudslides. Winds were lower in Western Washington, but were still strong enough to bring down temperatures — the wind chill in some areas of Northwest Washington was reportedly below zero degrees Fahrenheit — and raise the possibility of power outages.
By late morning, there were no widespread outages, said officials in Whatcom and San Juan counties, which reportedly saw the strongest winds in the state — sustained levels of 25-35 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph.
Neither Seattle City Light nor Puget Sound Energy had reports of significant power outages as of noon Wednesday, and state emergency management officials said the same held true throughout Western Washington.
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But, officials said, it’s still early.
“We’ve had just a few reports of scattered outages affecting a few folks here and there,” said Rob Harper, spokesman for the state emergency management division. “But that’s something we’ll be concerned about as the day goes on. With the amount of snow we’ve got coming down, and then add wind and freezing rain, that could present a situation. It could be very significant.”
Lynne Miller, with King County’s joint emergency information center, said the county also is keeping an eye on utilities, to make sure people don’t lose heat during the storm.
“If there are outages and the temperatures drop, we’ll want to get on that and fast,” she said.
Responders were bracing for any surprises, but so far the reality pretty much matched forecasts.
“We’re dealing with snow and ice just like everybody else,” said Ken Richardson, a spokesman for Whatcom’s Division of Emergency Management. “We’re fortunate we don’t have as much as down south.”
Richardson was referring to the snow in Southwest Washington.
But it was cold in Bellingham, and the wind made it even colder.
The temperature at Bellingham International Airport, north of the city near Bellingham Bay, dropped to the upper teens Tuesday evening, then plunged to 12 degrees during the night.
By 10 a.m. Wednesday, the temperature had risen to 15 degrees, but coupled with a northeasterly wind gusting between 25 mph and 39 mph, the wind-chill temperature at the airport registered 5 degrees below zero. By early afternoon, the ambient temperature at the airport was still only 16 degrees.
Winds were also high in the mountains.
Gusts as high as 85 mph shut off access to deep powder at the top of Crystal Mountain ski resort on Wednesday, although winds began to taper off a bit by midday. Other resorts, including White Pass, reported some moderate winds, but not enough to close lifts.
The winds resulted in poor visibility in some of the mountain passes but didn’t significantly affect traffic, Washington Department of Transportation spokeswoman Summer Derrey said.
But Western Oregon saw the strongest wind of all.
Coastal Lincoln County bore the brunt of the storm, with sustained of winds of more than 50 mph and gusts approaching 100 mph. By midmorning, travel on every major road in the county was closed or delayed due to large puddles of water and downed trees and power lines.
Jenny Demaris, the county’s emergency manager, said that wind level is not unprecedented but was relatively unusual for how quickly it came and left.
“This was much more compressed,” she said.
The highest wind gusts were measured at 95 mph at about 7:45 a.m. in Newport. Tami Atkinson, a spokeswoman for the city’s police department, said the storm blew off part of one building’s roof but did not cause significant structural damage. She cautioned that the roads are hazardous, however.
By 9 a.m., winds were subsiding but rains were continuing, raising the possibility of river flooding in the days to come.
The severe weather is a result of the same system affecting Western Washington, said Gerald Macke of the National Weather Service in Portland. The system is also influencing conditions in Canada and California, he added.
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal. Staff reporters Craig Welch, Jonathan Martin and Ron Judd contributed.