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Strong winds topple trees, cause power outages in Skagit County

December 21, 2018

Updated at 2:30 p.m.

A wind storm Thursday is knocking down trees, poles and power lines throughout Skagit County.

Wind speeds in some areas in Western Washington reached into the 70 mph range, according to the National Weather Service’s Seattle office.

At about 3 p.m., the weather service reported wind gusts had peaked and that lighter winds are expected for the evening.

Earlier in the day, wind gusts in Skagit County appeared to reach 59 mph in the Bow area, according to weather service data.

“If you don’t have to go out, please stay put and prepare for power outages,” weather service senior meteorologist Courtney Obergfell said in a 12:20 p.m. video update about the storm.

The Skagit County Department of Emergency Management is asking that residents report power outages to Puget Sound Energy and downed wires and trees to 911.

Doug ten Hoopen, director of emergency management, said all fire departments and fire districts responded to calls and Skagit 911 had extra staff helping handle the influx of emergency reports.

“Life safety continues to take priority,” ten Hoopen said. “Multiple downed wires, telephone poles and trees are causing power outages, tree fires and road closures.”

It’s unclear how many in the area are without power, as PSE announced at 11:30 a.m. it was having problems with its online outage map and ability to accept outage reports.

“The windy weather is causing many outages around our service area,” PSE posted on its website. “As the winds continue to knock down tree limbs and trees, we do not yet know the full assessment of the number of customers without power.”

Shortly before the post, several hundred outages appeared scattered on the online map, from Anacortes to Alger and Bow to La Conner.

PSE opened an Emergency Coordination Center and local storm bases to coordinate restoration efforts, according to the utility’s web post.

The state Department of Transportation and Trooper Heather Axtman with State Patrol reported online that downed trees and power lines were seen throughout Skagit and neighboring counties, including blocking traffic on Interstate 5, Highway 20 and Memorial Highway.

Interstate 5 was closed for hours near the Bow Hill Road exit due to downed trees and power lines, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The Deception Pass Bridge on Highway 20 reopened at about 3:30 p.m. after several hours of being closed.

Sections of several county roads are also closed due to trees and power lines across the roadways, according to the county’s online road closure list.

A section of McLean Road is also closed just west of Mount Vernon, from Bonney Lane and Sunset Lane. Friday Creek Road is closed near Old Highway 99, Hoehn Road is closed from Bergstead Road east, Utopia Road is closed from its intersection with Hoehn Road, and Hathaway Road is closed near Chase Road.

Cook Road is closed between Chuckanut Drive and Avon Allen Road, Pulver Road is closed from Peterson to Josh Wilson, and a section of Marihugh Road in Bay View is closed. Old Day Creek Road is closed near South Skagit Highway, multiple sections of Gripp Road north of Sedro-Woolley are closed and Kelleher Road is closed near Avon Golf Links.

As of 1:30 p.m., ferries serving the Anacortes/San Juan Islands route are running on storm routes and only being partially loaded for better stability, according to the Department of Transportation. Riders should expect moderate to significant delays.

Street traffic is also being impacted in some areas due to street lights without power, and various businesses including Skagit Valley College shut down in the early afternoon.

Three schools in the Sedro-Woolley School District were without power, Superintendent Phil Brockman said, and the district is taking extra precautions to get students home.

As schools are dismissed, Brockman said bus routes will operate as normally as possible. If a bus is not able to get a child to their bus stop, the bus will return to the school, Brockman said.

School staff will remain at the school until a parent or guardian is able to pick up the students, he said.

“We’re just playing it safe,” he said.

Jeremy Kindlund with the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce said the chamber’s downtown office lost power briefly multiple times throughout the early afternoon.

At Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes, several sails came loose from boats and the wind dragged an anchored boat outside the marina, said Amanda Flierl, a customer services representative at the marina.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island also took precautions in the afternoon, electing to send some personnel home during daylight.

“Because of the severe winds the base commanding officer has determined it’s best that only mission-essential personnel stay at work here at NAS Whidbey Island,” Public Affairs Deputy Thomas Mills said.

As the storm continues, a storm warning is in effect for Skagit County until 6 p.m.

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