Record winds leave 4 dead, more than 1 million in the dark

SEATTLE (AP) - More than a million people lost power after the worst windstorm in more than a decade tore through Western Washington, killing four people.

A Seattle voice-over actress died after being trapped in the flooded basement of her home, while falling trees killed three others.

It was the worst windstorm to hit the state since the Inauguration Day storm on Jan. 20, 1993, which killed five people, destroyed at least 79 homes, and caused about $130 million in damage, said Clifford F. Mass, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor.

Gov. Chris Gregoire declared a state of emergency Friday, and with temperatures expected to drop in the region this weekend, officials warned people not to use outdoor grills, propane heaters or other carbon-monoxide-producing equipment indoors.

Winds gusted to a record 69 mph about 1 a.m. Friday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, breaking the old mark of 65 mph set in 1993. Winds were clocked at 113 mph near Mount Rainier.

Power was knocked out about 1:30 a.m. Friday to the south end of the airport terminal, as well as to a nearby Federal Aviation Administration air-traffic control office. More than 100 flights critically injured when a tree fell on their pickup truck after they stopped because of fallen trees southeast of McKenna in eastern Pierce County.

Puget Sound Energy, the state's largest private utility, had restored power to about 75,000 customers by Friday evening - but 625,000 were still without, company spokeswoman Martha Monfried said. It would be "several days - definitely through the weekend," before everyone was restored, she said.

"We're calling it the worst storm ever - much worse than the Inaugural Day storm of 1993," she said.

Most of those getting back power Friday were in Bellevue and Olympia, and on Whidbey Island, where essentially everyone lost power, she said.

The utility had lost more than half of its transmission system, and crews struggled in the mountains to reach downed lines that carry the electricity from Columbia River dams. A helicopter turned back because of whiteout conditions, and workers eventually rode in on snow machines, said another spokesman, Dennis Smedsrud.

Crews also faced heavy traffic and closed roads as they tried to fix outages.

Extra crews were being called in from as far away as Kansas, Monfried said.

As of Friday evening, 107,000 people remained without power in Seattle, down from a peak of 175,000, and 20,000 were still without power in the Snohomish County Public Utility District north of Seattle, down from 120,000 earlier.

About 70,000 to 80,000 lost power at times in Tacoma, along with 22,000 customers of the Grays Harbor PUD on the coast. By 6 p.m. Friday, only 3,500 customers remained in the dark in Grays Harbor County, most of them in Ocean Shores.

One of the hardest-hit area was King County, which includes Seattle, where drenching rain accompanied the first wallop as the storm hit Thursday afternoon, slowing commuters to a crawl. The winds picked up again around midnight, and moved into Eastern Washington later Friday, toppling trees and cutting power to thousands of people in the Inland Northwest. In Spokane, wind gusts reached 54 miles per hour.

Winds were clocked in the 80s along the Strait of Juan de Fuca leading inland toward Seattle, 74 mph at the Hood Canal floating bridge, which links the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, and 63 mph at the Evergreen Point floating bridge, one of two linking Seattle with the suburbs east of Lake Washington.

At the Green Firs Shopping Center in University Place, just south of Tacoma, people lined up out the door of Starbucks, near a 40-foot fir tree that had blown over in the storm.

Terry Hayes said he first realized his power was out shortly after midnight Thursday when the machine he uses to treat his sleep apnea quit working and he couldn't breathe.

The high wind peeled all of the shingles off the roof overhang covering his deck.

"I don't know where it is," Hayes said. "All I know is the wind took off the whole covering."

Peak Gusts From The Storm

* Vail: 76 mph
* Hood Canal Bridge: 74 mph
* Ocean Shores: 70 mph
* Seattle (Sea-Tac Airport): 69 mph
* Tacoma: 69 mph
* Oak Harbor: 69 mph
* Coupeville: 68 mph
* Port Angeles: 68 mph
* Black Diamond: 68 mph
* Montesano: 68 mph
* Seattle (Alki Beach): 67 mph
* Everett: 66 mph
* 520 Floating Bridge: 63 mph
* Forks: 59 mph
* Seattle (Magnolia): 58 mph
* Hoquiam: 58 mph
* La Conner: 58 mph
* Seattle (Boeing Field): 56 mph
* Burlington: 55 mph
* Bellingham: 55 mph
* Shelton: 53 mph
* Olympia: 53 mph
* Renton: 51 mph
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