High winds swept through Western Washington on Monday night, knocking over trees and power lines and cutting power to hundreds of thousands of people.
Within an hour of lightning flashing across the night sky and winds gusting above 40 mph, Tacoma firefighters had responded to more than 30 calls. Trees crashed into houses, trapping at least one family.
Heavy limbs tumbled onto cars. The department received a report of a boathouse that had broken loose.
Blown transformers and downed power lines started several tiny fires in trees and at least one car. Roads were blocked by falling debris, and some motorists had to drive on the wrong side of the road to get through.
A Tacoma Power spokeswoman said at least 54,000 customers were plunged into darkness throughout Tacoma, Lakewood and Frederickson, but that the number was likely much higher.
“I can’t even get a customer count because more and more keeping coming down,” said spokeswoman Chris Gleason.
The widespread power outages forced the city to use backup generators. While dispatch centers were out of commission, 911 operators remained available to take calls.
“We’re still able to conduct business, but because of the storm it’s more complicated,” said Tacoma Fire Department spokesman Joe Meinecke.
Emergency responders worked in a frenzy, trying to juggle multiple calls and stretch resources to respond to all the reported mayhem.
No major injuries were reported in Pierce County.
The storm was expected to begin tapering off early this morning, but another front is supposed to move in Wednesday night, bringing back light rain and strong winds.
“These aren’t exceptionally high winds, but it is certainly windy,” said Doug McDonal, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Stacia Glenn, staff writer