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A Million Could Spend Days in Dark

December 15, 2006

SEATTLE, Washington (AP) — More than a million people still were without power Friday night after the worst windstorm in more than a decade tore through the Pacific Northwest on Thursday night.

At least four people died as a result of the howling windstorms and heavy rains.

Puget Sound Energy, Washington’s largest private utility, had 700,000 customers without power on Friday. Some won’t have their lights back on for days, spokesman Roger Thompson said.

In Oregon, about 350,000 customers lost power, and repairs to restore all of them could stretch into next week, utility officials said.

Winds gusted to a record 69 mph about 1 a.m. at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, breaking the old mark of 65 mph set in 1993. Winds were clocked at 90 mph near Westport on the coast.

Power was knocked out at one of the airport’s concourses until late Friday morning. Dozens of flights were canceled, including all American Airlines service through the morning hours.

Flights were also canceled at Portland International Airport in Oregon, and Amtrak canceled service between Seattle and Portland after downed trees and mudslides blocked the tracks.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer went unpublished for the first time since a 1936 labor strike, because electricity was knocked out to its printing presses, managing editor David McCumber said. The Seattle Times, which shares the presses, had only about 13,000 copies available Friday morning.

Seattle public schools were closed Friday, as were numerous smaller school systems and The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

A 41-year-old Seattle woman died Thursday after she became trapped in her basement while it flooded. Neighbors had called for help after they heard screaming.

A 28-year-old man was killed while he slept when the top of a tree snapped off and crashed into his home in a trailer park in McCleary, 18 miles west of Olympia.

Elsewhere in Washington, two people died in traffic accidents involving windblown trees.

In Oregon, a family of six was sickened by carbon monoxide from a generator set up in a garage after the storm knocked out power, police said Friday. Four children and two adults were hospitalized, and two of the children were in critical condition, police spokeswoman Teddi Anderson said.

The Oregon Department of Transportation closed three major highways crossing the Cascade Range because of fallen trees or downed power lines.

The Evergreen Point floating bridge, which links Seattle and its eastern suburbs, was closed early Friday for minor repairs, but reopened before the evening commute. The Hood Canal floating bridge, which links Washington’s Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge were reopened early Friday after being closed Thursday evening because of heavy winds. (Watch how bridges are holding up against the big storm )

It was the most intense storm to hit the region since the Inauguration Day storm of January 20, 1993, which killed five people and caused about $130 million in damage, said Clifford F. Mass, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor.




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