9-year-old girl killed by falling tree during windstorm

9-year-old girl killed by falling tree during windstorm
CLINTON, Wash. -- A 9-year-old girl died Sunday afternoon when a car she was riding in was struck by a tree during strong winds.

The crash happened just before 1 p.m. in the 7700 block of Baily Road just south of Clinton on Whidbey Island, said Trooper Keith Leary with the Washington State Patrol.

The girl, identified as Tobiah Leonard, was part of a family of five that were in their Ford Explorer when a 12-inch branch broke off and struck the car, Leary said. Medics attempted CPR at the scene on the girl but efforts were unsuccessful.

Leary says the girl was sitting in the right rear passenger set. The girl's father, who was in the front passenger seat, suffered neck injuries and had to be airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The 12- and 18-year-old girls in the back seat had minor injuries while the mother, who was driving, was not hurt.

"Just a very tragic collision with this tree branch and a car... it's just an absolute tragedy for this family," Leary said.

Winds were gusting over 50 mph in the area, with Oak Harbor reporting a peak gust of 54 mph. Leary said it was just simply a freak accident.

"It's not something we can predict or swerve out of the way," Leary said. "It's something that happened extremely fast and probably something they never saw coming."

The storm was the first to strike the region since late November and knocked out power to thousands in the Western Washington interior. At the peak of the windstorm, power was out to about 18,000 Seattle City Light customers -- largest in the Shoreline, SeaTac and Burien areas, while Puget Sound Energy reported 14,000 customers in the dark with the bulk in North King and Kitsap County. In Burien, a witness reported a large tree blew down with power poles down across the road at SW 152nd and 9th Ave SW. We're also getting reports of power outages in the Auburn, Kirkland and Woodinville areas.

In Federal Way, a 10-foot-by-20-foot portable garage was blown up and into a neighbor's yard.

Up north, it was quite the rocky ride on the Edmonds-Kingston ferry run. An anemometer on the ferry showed consistent gusts of 45-50 on the midday crossing with a peak gust of 54 mph as the ferry left the Edmonds terminal.

Photo taken on Edmonds-Kingston ferry around midday Sunday. Courtesy: Cliff DesPeaux

Other peak gusts from the storm include 60 mph from Alki Beach in West Seattle, 56 mph in Bellingham and Everett, 53 mph in Seattle, 51 mph in Gig Harbor and 46 mph in Tacoma.

The winds are expected to continue to blow into the mid afternoon, then taper off as we get into the evening.

The rain is the other story. As of midday Sunday, Seattle had received just 0.31" of rain so far in the month of December with just a week left to go. If that sounds unheard of, it is. It's never been this dry this far into the month before. In fact, December stands as the second driest month of the year so far, trailing only August and nearly three times drier than July. Even the Desert Southwest has had more rain than Seattle.

But all of that is changing this week, as a big ridge of high pressure that has been stuck over the Eastern Pacific Ocean for much of the month has finally given way. And in its place, here comes the jet stream, taking aim at the Pacific Northwest and about to steer a few storms our way as the month and year draw to a close.

Up in the mountains, some snow is likely above 3,500 feet Sunday -- perhaps enough for 4-8 inches of snow in the higher spots like Mt. Baker with the lower amounts toward Stevens Pass. A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect from 10 a.m. Sunday to 3 a.m. Monday. Snoqualmie Pass will also get some snow, but closer to 1-4 inches.

A slightly stronger storm arrives late Monday into Tuesday with moderate rain but a lot more mountain snow. It's followed by several more weather systems that are progressively a little stronger still through the week that will keep a chance of rain in the lowlands and bring more snow to the mountains each day through the end of the week. Some models indicate a storm due in late Thursday into Friday could bring another decent dose of wind along for the ride.

Peak gusts from the storm:

* Alki Beach (West Seattle): 60 mph
* Bellingham: 56 mph
* Everett: 56 mph
* Oak Harbor: 54 mph
* Edmonds-Kingston Ferry: 54 mph
* Seattle (Sea-Tac Airport): 53 mph
* Gig Harbor: 51 mph
* 520 Bridge: 48 mph
* Tacoma: 46 mph
* Friday Harbor: 46 mph
* Arlington: 44 mph
* Renton: 43 mph
* Shelton: 39 mph
* Bremerton: 38 mph