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Originally published Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 7:54 PM

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Powerful winds close Highway 520 bridge; thousands lose power


Seattle Times staff

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A powerful windstorm pushed through the region Saturday, injuring at least three people, knocking out power to some 200,000 customers and forcing the closure of the Highway 520 bridge, which swayed as much as 5 feet in wind-whipped waters.

“It’s been a crazy day,’’ said State Patrol Trooper Chris Webb.

About 50 motorists abandoned their vehicles on the 520 bridge as waves splashing onto the roadway and poor visibility made them panicky about crossing the swaying and bouncing span, Webb said.

The State Patrol closed the bridge about 11 a.m. and escorted the motorists to safety. The bridge reopened just after 1 p.m.

“I’ve been on (the Patrol) 22 years,” Webb said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this.”

The top gust inland clocked in at 62 mph at Alki Beach, while at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, winds reached 59 mph.

“The winds were concentrated in the Seattle area, which is a little unusual,’’ said Chris Burke, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.

The forecast for Sunday is much brighter. In the lowlands, Burke said, expect partly sunny skies, with a 40 percent chance of showers.

Snow was predicted for Cascade Mountain passes, with between 6 and 11 inches anticipated by Sunday morning.

On Saturday, downed trees and branches created havoc.

Winds ranging from 40 to 62 mph toppled trees in King, Snohomish and Kitsap counties, closing roads and highways and damaging at least two Seattle homes.

A construction worker was hurt on Capitol Hill on Saturday morning when a piece of metal awning he was installing blew off and hit him. A 2-year-old boy in the University District was seriously injured by a falling branch around 9:30 a.m. And a 48-year-old Granite Falls man was seriously injured south of Monroe when a tree fell across Highway 203 and onto his Mustang, according to the State Patrol.

None of the injuries was expected to be life-threatening.

Utility workers scrambled to restore power to thousands of customers — including the QFC in University Village, where shoppers made their way in the dark.

North Seattle bore the brunt of the power outages, which began almost as soon as the winds kicked up Saturday morning and peaked as winds reached their highest velocity around noon.

Seattle City Light said about 46,000 of its customers were in the dark at the peak of the storm. By early evening, about 21,000 remained without power, with crews working toward a goal of restoring service to most customers by 8 p.m. Saturday. Some customers were likely to be out of luck until midday Sunday.

At one point, Puget Sound Energy reported more than 1,000 separate outages affecting 105,000 customers.

The areas hardest hit in Seattle included Northeast Seattle between Wedgwood and Lake City; just north of Carkeek Park; and both sides of Aurora Avenue North between 165th and 195th streets. Areas along Lake Washington in Lake Forest Park, Laurelhurst and Madrona also were affected.

In Snohomish County, outages peaked at 40,000 in the morning before dwindling to about 10,000 by 3:30 p.m. Those outages were concentrated in the southern part of the county, between Bothell and Monroe, utility spokesman Neil Neroutsos said

Burke, of the National Weather Service, said the storm was all but over by 5 p.m.

Seattle Times staff reporters Emily Heffter, Susan Kelleher and Brian M. Rosenthal contributed to this report.



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