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Windy, Warm, Wet In Northwest

January 8, 1990

Undated (AP) _ A series of storms packing heavy rain and high wind rolled across the Northwest over the weekend, cutting electricity to thousands of customers, ripping down trees and derailing a freight train.

Two deaths in Oregon were blamed on the storms.

Wind reached 92 mph at Rattlesnake Ridge on the Hanford nuclear reservation in south-central Washington, said National Weather Service meteorologist Darrol Lewis. A gust to 94 mph was reported at a Pacific Power & Light Co. gauge in Astoria, Ore., late Sunday and 72 mph gusts were reported early Monday in the area of Pendleton, Ore. Lewiston, Idaho, had a gust to 69 mph.

Many schools were closed Monday in Idaho, Oregon and Washington and others opened later than usual because they were without electricity or had transportation problems caused by limbs and trees across roads.

But the storms supplied much-needed snow for Wyoming ski resorts.

One vigorous storm front moved through the region Saturday night, a slightly weaker front arrived late Sunday, and another one was possible Tuesday.

In Wyoming, high wind knocked 35 railroad flatcars off the tracks between Cheyenne and Laramie on Sunday, Union Pacific spokesman John Bromley said Monday. Only one of the cars carried any cargo, he said.

″We estimated winds were gusting in the area in excess of 70 miles per hour from the north,″ Bromley said from his Omaha, Neb., office. ″Nobody was hurt.″

Work continued Monday to right the cars, he said. Two other sets of tracks enabled the railroad to keep traffic moving, said Bromley.

The Interstate 82 bridge across the Columbia River at Umatilla, Ore., about 30 miles south of Kennewick, Wash., was closed after a semi-trailer truck was blown over by the wind, the Washington State Patrol said.

Utility crews scrambled Monday to restore power to large areas of eastern Washington, where trees and flying limbs snapped lines. Parked cars and buildings were hit by falling trees, and roofs were blown away.

Electricity was cut to communities along the Washington-Idaho border and to the city of Spokane, Wash., said Pat Lynch of Washington Water Power Co. at Spokane.

In Moscow, Idaho, ″only one of our schools had power this morning,″ said School Superintendent C.L. Sutton. ″Those big pine trees in the older section of town that have been there forever were pulled up by their roots.″

Radio stations throughout the Lewiston-Moscow area of Idaho were knocked off the air.

Sections of downtown Walla Walla, Wash., were without power and scattered power outages were reported in the lower Yakima Valley.

The wind also caused isolated power outages in southeastern Idaho, around the Pocatello area, and in the Idaho Panhandle.

In Oregon, at the height of the storm Sunday, 10,000 customers were without power in the Albany-Corvallis area and 5,000 still didn’t have electricity this morning. In the Dallas area, 6,500 customers had power knocked out and 3,000 didn’t have electricity Monday, Donnelly said.

The wind was accompanied by heavy rain. Bremerton, Wash., received 2.29 inches of rain in the 24 hours ending Sunday afternoon. Eugene, Ore., reported nearly 4.5 inches of rain in the 48 hours beginning at midnight Saturday.

In addition to the rain, unseasonably high temperatures averaging 20 degrees above normal were recorded around Washington, raising the possibility that melting mountain snow could add to the rain swelling rivers.

Wind and rain Saturday night caused mudslides and fallen trees that briefly blocked highways in parts of Washington.

A mudslide closed Oregon 38 about 14 miles east of Reedsport late Sunday, the Douglas County sheriff’s department reported.

The storms dumped more than 1 foot of snow on the mountains of northwestern Wyoming, great news at the Jackson Hole Ski Corp., which in recent weeks has fought rumors that it was closing because of a snow shortage.

″The skiing has dramatically improved,″ said Bill Lewkowitz, the resort’s national sales manager.

After receiving 8 inches Friday, the resort collected an additional 11 to 15 inches from the storm that arrived Sunday night, said Lewkowitz.

The snow prompted the Wyoming Highway Department to close Teton Pass west of Jackson, and high wind and heavy snow forced the closure of Wyoming 28 over South Pass.