Over 20,000 lose power in unseasonably strong storm

SEATTLE - A rainy and blustery storm blew into Western Washington Sunday evening, bringing a round of drenching rains and blustery winds as September gets set to end with a bang.

A very strong area of low pressure moved ashore into North-central Vancouver Island and then tracked inland into the Southern B.C. interior Sunday night. This track brought some gusty winds but spared the region from super-strong winds that had been feared with some model forecasts of a more southerly closer-to-home landfall.

Instead, it's a somewhat classic storm pattern for Western Washington in the late fall and winter, but is quite unusual for late September.

Peak gusts as of 10 p.m. Sunday reached over 50 mph along the coast (51 mph in Hoquiam, 59 mph in Astoria, Ore.) and at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, which reported a gust of 54 mph. Most other wind gusts around the Puget Sound area were in the 35-45 mph range including a 40 mph gust in Everett and 39 mph in Seattle -- although the lighthouse at Alki Beach recorded a gust of 53 mph.

The winds combined with a soggy ground helped topple a number of trees across the region.

On Seattle's Queen Anne Hill, a large tree fell over across two cars in the 500 block of W. McGraw Street.

The owners of the Chevy Malibu and Mazda that were struck by the tree were inside having dinner at a friends when the storm struck. They say they couldn't do anything but sit and watch as the tree uprooted, and buckled at the base, after all that rain and wind.

"I just like heard this noise outside -- it wasn't very loud," said Laura Fisk. "But then I looked out and just saw the tree slowly fall."

A tree also fell across SR-167 at Willis Road late Sunday evening, the Washington State Patrol reported.

In West Seattle, a roof partially collapsed in the 6000 block of 41st Ave. SW, Seattle fire officials said. She wasn't hurt and the Red Cross is providing help.

Over 20,000 people had lost power from the storm, including 3,200 in Seattle, about 3,500 in Mason County, 1,200 in the south Tacoma area and 1,000 in Grays Harbor County. Most were brief in duration. Puget Sound Energy reported just over 8,800 in the dark scattered across their grids in Western Washington early Sunday night with the high winds, then another 7,000 lost power when a thunderstorm rolled through southeastern Pierce County early Monday morning.

North Kitsap Fire and Rescue officials said they were dealing with a number of downed trees and power lines. In Indianola, a power pole caught fire at the end of Shore Drive and a tree took down live wires across Kitsap Street and again on Nachant Drive.

Tree branches also found their way into power lines on SR-104 near Gamblewood in Kitsap County.

After the wind, thunderstorms rolled around the North Sound, making for a brilliant display of lightning in the nighttime skies:

Over on the coast, a High Surf Warning remains in effect through 11 a.m. Monday for surf as high as 27-30 feet.

In addition, snow was falling in the higher elevations of the mountains and a Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for the Cascades for areas above 4,500 feet in the North Cascades and 5,000 feet in the Central Cascades. As much as 4-8 inches of new snow could fall around Mt. Baker and Paradise Ranger Station. Main Stevens/Snoqualmie Passes will be rain but very windy.

The storm also caused a floating crane and two attached barges to drift from the State Route 520 construction zone, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The crane and barges ended up near the Laurelhurst shoreline in Seattle. A tugboat retrieved the equipment early Monday morning, and WSDOT officials say there does not appear to be any damage to the existing bridge, construction equipment or nearby properties.

Paul Thelen lives in Laurelhurst and said he and his wife saw bright lights drifting towards them at around 11 p.m. on Sunday.

"You could see a dark mass coming towards me with lights on the edges, but we didn't really know what it was," he said. "We thought it was a big freighter ship. But then we saw it was coming way too close to shore to be a big freighter ship."

Occasional showers and isolated thunderstorms were also possible in the wake of the storm through Tuesday.