Powerful winds topple trees, knock out power north of Olympics

The powerful winds toppled trees along Highway 112. (Wash. State Patrol photo)

PORT ANGELES, Wash. - A rare mountain wave event brought strong localized winds that toppled trees, knocked out power and closed highways in the Port Angeles area and beyond Friday.

Wind gusts hit as high as 40 to 55 mph, creating havoc along the Strait of Juan de Fuca coastline and north of the Olympic Mountains.

The severe winds caused multiple power outages in Port Angeles and at facilities inside Olympic National Park as trees brought down electrical lines. Park officials closed the visitor center in Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge Road and the Hoh Visitor Center.

The storm knocked out both main Bonneville Power Adminstration's electrical feeder lines into Clallam County, knocking out power to nearly all 30,000 customers in the county, including the entire town of Port Angeles, for several hours. Power was restored to many folks later Friday evening.

The Washington State Patrol also closed a 22-mile stretch of Highway 112 after strong winds toppled trees over the roadway. Olympic National Park officials closed the visitor center in Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge Road and the Hoh Visitor Center.

The Port Angeles School District announced that school buses would operate on snow routes because of all the downed trees and power lines. The Sequim School District canceled all afternoon and evening activities because of the power outages even though schools remain opened. The district assured parents students were safe.

The unusually strong winds were caused by an approaching potent storm that sent southerly winds smashing into the Olympic Mountains.

As the winds climbed over the mountain summits, they rolled down the lee side of the mountains in waves of wind -- similar to how waves in the ocean build and crash, only with air.

The mountain wave event also warmed temperatures into the 60s in Port Angeles as the sinking air from the winds warmed and dried out -- relative humidity dropped into the teens at the same time. The wind eventually shifted to the west with another surge of wind in the evening before calming down for the evening.

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