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Originally published Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 7:21 PM

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Winter blows in with power outages, mountain snow

While wind and rain whipped around the Puget Sound area on Saturday, snow piled up in the mountains, with Mount Baker expected to get as much as 18 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Seattle Times staff reporter

While wind and rain whipped around the Puget Sound area on Saturday, snow piled up in the mountains, with Mount Baker expected to get as much as 18 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The website for the Mount Baker Ski Area trumpeted the change in conditions, declaring: "Winter has definitely returned!"

But while skiers could take heart in the weather, folks in the lowlands found less to celebrate.

Wind gusts in the Puget Sound region reached as high as 48 mph on Saturday afternoon, said Jay Neher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Those winds caused all kinds of problems for utility workers, who were dispatched from one power outage to another in Western Washington, to pull branches off wires and reset circuits.

On Saturday morning, about 7,000 customers lost power in Whatcom County when falling limbs caused three substations to trip off, said Dorothy Bracken, a spokeswoman for Puget Sound Energy. Those customers regained power within about two hours. Later in the day, the utility dealt with smaller outages in Woodinville, Mount Vernon, Port Orchard and Cle Elum, among other towns scattered throughout PSE's coverage area.

In Snohomish County, winds knocked a branch onto a power line at about 3 p.m., tripping the circuitry and causing a power outage for about 16,000 customers, said Neil Neroutsos, spokesman for the Snohomish County Public Utility District. Those customers, mostly in Lynnwood, north Edmonds and Maltby, lost power for a half-hour before the PUD was able to remove the limb and reset the circuit.

A smaller outage hit North Seattle on Saturday afternoon, with 765 customers losing power in a pocket south of Northeast 125th Street and west of Lake City Way Northeast, according to Seattle City Light.

With local gusts anticipated to reach as high as 50 mph, the National Weather Service put a wind advisory in effect until 9 p.m. Saturday for a stretch that included Everett, Seattle, Bremerton and Tacoma.

The National Weather Service also declared a winter storm warning, in effect until 6 a.m. Sunday, for the northern and central Cascades, including the mountain passes. The northern Cascades were expected to get dumped with 12 to 18 inches of snow, while Stevens and Snoqualmie passes were looking to get 2 to 6 inches, mostly Saturday night.

The forecast for Sunday promises better weather for the Puget Sound region. There's a 30 percent chance of rain, with winds dropping to about 10 mph.

On Monday, rain is likely to return, with winds of between 10 and 25 mph and a high temperature near 50.

Ken Armstrong: 206-464-3730 or karmstrong@seattletimes.com

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