KENNEWICK, Wash. (AP) _ Jim Aust has seen plenty of tumbleweeds in the 26 years he's lived in this Columbia River Basin town, but never anything like this.

``It was just like being snowed in,'' he said. ``But it was tumbleweeds.''

A stiff wind blew thousands of tumbleweeds _ dried-out tops of tough weed known as Russian thistle _ into town during the weekend.

The weeds blocked doorways and driveways, buried 6-foot-high fences and lodged in every conceivable nook in a neighborhood on the south side of the town some 225 miles southeast of Seattle.

``It was like the attack of the killer tumbleweeds,'' homeowner Kim Taverniti-Martyn said. ``You should have seen them coming over the hills.''

Workers spent most of Tuesday burning the weeds, leaving a light layer of ash over the neighborhood.

``Some of these were as big as Buicks,'' said Jill Raebel, whose home was among those beset.

She blames a fallow wheat field nearby that has become a virtual tumblewood farm. Others blame a wildfire that cleared sagebrush from a large patch of land several years ago, inviting the thistle to take root.

When the weeds' 20-foot-long roots wither and die, their tops become desiccated skeletons that can break off and blow along the ground.

Town officials said there's not much they can do about the problem.

``It's kind of an act-of-God thing,'' Councilman Paul Parish said. ``I don't know what the answer is.''

It was the third time this winter residents have had to gather and burn the prickly weeds.

Tumbleweeds have bedeviled the nearby Hanford nuclear reservation for decades. Occasionally, special disposal teams are needed to dispose of them, because the weeds' deep tap roots can soak up radioactive waste from the soil at the nuclear reservation. Less than 1 percent of the weeds at Hanford are radioactive.