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Originally published May 13, 2013 at 9:21 PM | Page modified May 13, 2013 at 10:02 PM

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22,000 lose power as wind downs trees, lines

Thunderstorms across Western Washington brought wind gusts that tore down trees and power lines, cutting energy to thousands.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Power was knocked out for more than 22,000 customers in the Puget Sound area Monday as windy, scattered thunderstorms tore down trees and power lines throughout Western Washington.

Wind gusts reached highs of 45 mph on Alki Point in Seattle and in Snohomish, 44 mph in Tacoma and about 40 mph in Everett, Bellevue and on Whidbey Island, according to the National Weather Service.

Utility crews and firefighters responded to calls of trees and branches falling on houses, and they fixed deadly, live wires hanging over roadways in areas including Seattle, Bothell, Edgewood, Puyallup, North Bend, and Whidbey and Bainbridge islands.

Downed lines at Green River Community College in Auburn trapped a woman in her car for two hours after a tree fell on five vehicles and brought lines down on 20.

After Puget Sound Energy workers made sure the wires on her car were not live, the woman was able to get out uninjured, according to college spokeswoman Vickie Sheehan.

“A big gust of wind came here, and we heard three pops that we thought were transformers blowing,” Sheehan said. When college officials saw the scene in the parking lot and that power had been knocked out to the entire campus, they canceled all classes for the day.

Puget Sound Energy reported Monday afternoon that as many as 22,338 of its customers were without power in 288 locations.

Seattle City Light reported fewer outages, but responded along with the Seattle Fire Department to downed lines in North Seattle and West Seattle Monday afternoon. One live wire hung about 10 feet above the ground near the intersection of Northeast 125th Street and Roosevelt Way Northeast, according to The Seattle Times news partner Ravenna Blog.

Downed trees and power lines also slowed rush-hour commutes, especially for people who had to drive around a tree that blocked two right lanes of southbound Interstate 5, just north of Northeast 145th Street.

As much trouble as Monday’s weather caused, similar thunderstorms aren’t unusual here in May and June, said weather service meteorologist Danny Mercer.

“This is the time of year when thunderstorms come because we have warm weather for a couple days, and then a cool front,” Mercer said. “We have a trough come through, and the area of low pressure creates a rising motion and instability.”

Mercer said the weather service recorded at least 200 lightning strikes throughout Western Washington on Monday afternoon.

He said the heavy wind gusts and lightning are gone for the rest of the week, though.

Forecasts for Tuesday call for partly cloudy weather, chance of showers and temperatures in the 60s.

Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or avaughn@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.

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