Strong winds blamed for 2 deaths in Seattle area

By The Associated Press | Posted - Aug. 29, 2015 at 7:21 p.m.

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SEATTLE (AP) — Powerful winds toppled trees and power lines across the Pacific Northwest on Saturday, causing two deaths in the Seattle area and knocking out electricity to nearly 500,000 customers.

A man was killed when a tree fell on a car in Gig Harbor, Washington, KING-TV reported. His 3-year-old daughter was in the back seat, but she was not hurt.

In Federal Way, a 10-year-old girl playing outside at a friend's birthday party was struck and killed by a falling limb from an alder tree, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported.

Falling trees or branches injured four people during a triathlon at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle. They were taken to an Army hospital for treatment, The News Tribune reported.

Trees on roadways caused widespread traffic problems.

The National Weather Service reported 20 to 35 mph winds, with gusts of 50 mph. One weather station in Hoquiam clocked a gust of 63 mph.

Late August is unusually early for such a powerful storm, meteorologists said. Trees, already stressed by dry conditions, still have their leaves, which makes them more likely to fall when strong winds blow.

Crews working to restore power were taxed by the storm's breadth. It tore trees out of the ground across a vast swatch of the Pacific Northwest, stretching manpower and equipment thin.

"If it just hits one part of our service area, you can maybe send crews down from another area. But this is a service-area-wide event," said Christina Donegan, a spokeswoman for Puget Sound Energy, which reported 224,000 customers without power by early evening.

Other Seattle-area utilities — Seattle City Lights, Snohomish County Public Utility District and Tacoma Public Utilities — estimated more than 240,000 outages between them.

The Snohomish Public Utility District said on Twitter that "customers should expect potentially long power outages."

In Oregon, Portland General Electric reported more than 20,000 were without power. Pacific Power's worst outage affected about 3,500 people in Astoria.

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