Wicked Weather Slams Western Washington

Wicked Weather Slams Western Washington »Play Video
SEATTLE - Mother Nature tossed just about her entire playbook at the Northwest Tuesday night, making for one wild night of weather.

A strong Convergence Zone roared through the area, bringing strong winds, heavy rains, lightning, and even a tornado near Sumas.

Winds reached gusts over 50 mph in some areas, knocking over trees and power lines all across the area. Oak Harbor reported a gust to 52 mph, while Tacoma had 53 mph gusts and Port Angeles had a gust to 43. Other gusts in the central Puget Sound area were in the 35-45 mph range.

Part of the roof at Marysville-Pilchuck High School was damaged from the wind, canceling all evening activities at the high school.

About 200,000 homes and businesses lost power at the height of the storm. In Snohomish County, the power losses were the worst since the Inaugural Day storm of 1993, with about 150,000 outages reported.

About 9,900 customers lost power in Seattle City Light's coverage area and another 5,600 customers were out in Tacoma, spokesmen said.

Scattered outages were reported in Skagit and Island counties.

About 36,000 were still without power as of midday Wednesday, with 25,000 Snohomish County PUD customers in the dark, and 5,000 Puget Sound Energy customers without power. Tacoma City City had about 5,600 out, and Seattle City Light was at 350.

Several schools were delayed or closed Wednesday due to lack of power. Check your school's status here

The winds suspended ferry service along the Port Townsend-Keystone route for a few hours, before resuming just after 6 p.m. A group of trees also fell across the southbound lanes of I-5 near Alderwood Mall, briefly blocking all lanes.

We had several reports of trees and power lines down, from Skagit County south though Pierce County.

There was also a tornado touching down east of Sumas, near the Canadian border.

The National Weather Service received a report of a funnel cloud near Sumas shortly after 2 p.m. that later touched down. The agency confirmed Wednesday that was indeed a tornado.

Meteorologist Johnny Burg says it was an F0 tornado on the Fujita tornado rating scale. An F0 is the weakest of the scale's levels, which range from F0 to F5. (Read more about the Fujita Scale here). The tornado had winds of 70 miles per hour along a swath 100 yards wide. It was on the ground six minutes and traveled 2.7 miles.

Burg says the tornado was in open fields most of the time but tore part of the roof off a barn, scattering strips of aluminum roofing across the yard and tearing down power lines.

Jeremy Visser, who rents the barn, said the property has taken a battering in high winds a number of times in the last two years.

"You kind of learn to go with the punches out here," he said.

We had other reports of funnel clouds around the area, but none touched down. These were likely cold-core funnels (seen here) and didn't cause any problems.

Quarter-inch hail was reported in Bellevue and Fall City.

Eastern Washington Hit Hard

High winds also caused problems in Eastern Washington.

Gusts of more than 40 mph swept across the Yakima Valley, cutting power to about 4,400 customers in the greater Yakima area and pushing a series of brush fires.

High winds also forced the closure of State Route 221 between Prosser and Paterson for several hours. The road reopened Tuesday evening.

The Yakima Fire Department reported 15 nearly simultaneous calls, but the worst fire destroyed only a shed and an old fence when a power line fell onto the building.

So, What Happened?

We can blame pretty much everything on a very strong Convergence Zone (read more about it here) that moved through the central, then eastern and Puget Sound area Tuesday afternoon. As winds raced to feed this Zone, they became quite strong and into the 40-50 mph range both to the north of the zone and down the Straits.

The strong winds also made for a reported huge dust storm in the Skagit Valley.

On the south side of the Zone, we had strong south/southwest winds of 30-45 mph. Tacoma reported a gust to 53 mph and Seattle's had gusts to 35 mph.

All of this activity was tapering off by evening.

The weather was pegged to become remarkably less crazy on Wednesday. Check the KOMO Weather Center for the latest forecast.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.