Strong May storm sweeps across Northwest


by KING 5 and Staff

Posted on May 19, 2010 at 9:30 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 19 at 11:26 PM

SEATTLE - An intense low pressure system generated strong winds along the Cascade foothills and along the coast, and even a barn-shifting tornado near Moses Lake.

Peak gusts have already reached 57 mph in Gig Harbor, 56 in Aberdeen, 50 in Oak Harbor, 48 in North Bend, 45 in Bellingham, 41 at Paine Field in Everett, 40 in Issaquah and Enumclaw, and 35 in Friday Harbor.

And the strong winds are causing some problems. Puget Sound Energy crews were working to restore power to approximately 3,000 customers in Auburn, 6,000 in Kenmore and 1,600 in Grays Harbor. In the Darrington area power is out along Giles Road after two power poles went down.

Classes and activities Green River Community College were canceled because of the outage.

A wind advisory is in effect until midnight for much of Western Washington.

The strongest winds were expected along the shorelines. Coastal winds will range from 25 to 50 mph, with higher gusts; those winds should slowly diminish after 10 p.m.

Winds from Whidbey Island and Mount Vernon northward will continue to increase up until about 2 a.m., then slowly diminish. Winds there will range from 20 to 40 mph with higher gusts; the strongest winds will likely occur over the northern part of Whidbey Island and the San Juans.

Winds won't be quite as strong over the Puget Sound area, ranging from 15 to 35 mph with higher gusts. The strongest winds will occur along or near the shorelines and certainly over the open Sound.

In Eastern Washington, a wind advisory was in effect until 10 p.m. Wednesday night, and some areas could see some snow showers.

A high wind warning has been issued for the Washington coast, as well as the northern Oregon coast.

High surf is expected through 11 a.m. Thursday, producing rip currents and causing beach erosion. Many people came to the coast for storm watching, but the National Weather Service is warning beach walkers that waves could suddenly race farther up the beach than normal.

The timing of the storm has some emergency management officials in Grays Harbor worried. Those who live along the north and central coast are being told to prepare for the kind of storm that hits in the winter. Winds could gust to 70 miles per hour, and since most trees have leaves this time of year, that makes them more likely to be blown down.

Oregon storms

Winds gusting to more than 60 miles per hour in a harsh May storm are blamed for knocking out power to more than 45,000 Oregon customers on Wednesday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen Starmer says Forest Grove west of Portland recorded a 73 mph gust and a 68 mph gust hit the coast near Waldport. He says gusts from 50-60 mph were reported elsewhere along the coast and in the Willamette Valley.

Pacific Power spokesman Art Sasse says his utility's most significant outage affected about 37,500 customers in the Albany-Corvallis area. Most had power restored in about an hour.

Portland General Electric spokeswoman Elaina Medina reported more than 8,000 customers without power at one point Wednesday.

Oregon Transportation Department officials say a tree fell across U.S. 26 Wednesday evening at Brightwood southeast of Portland, temporarily closing the highway in both directions.

KING 5's Susan Wyatt, Jake Whittenberg, Karin Czulik and Drew Mikkelsen, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.