60 mph Winds in Moscow


More on that wind storm / microburst that hit Moscow on Friday. 

Wind gusts topping out at 60 miles per hour Friday toppled utility poles, bowled over trees and tossed broken branches into power lines, causing a rash of electrical outages across the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley and the Palouse.

It started with a cold front that swept in from the west around 8 a.m. and damaged several trees in Moscow, including one on North Lincoln Street that snapped near its base. The large fir dropped between two homes, avoiding major damage. Other trees did not fall so benignly. Moscow Fire Chief Brian Nickerson said at least two trees fell on parked cars and others took out power lines.

“We didn’t have any injuries,” he said.

Avista Utilities battled outages across its coverage area throughout the day, said spokeswoman Debbie Simock at Spokane. One of the largest came when four utility poles supporting high-voltage transmission lines toppled at about 4 p.m. along Tammany Creek Road south of Lewiston. Simock said saturated soil in the area – the result of an unusually wet start to spring – compromised the stability of the poles, which fell during heavy wind.

Transmission lines carry electricity from generating sources to substations where the voltage is stepped down before it is delivered to end users on distribution lines. Simock said because transmission lines were involved, the outage effected a large number of users.

“We had to take transmission lines out of service,” she said.

Steven Van Horn of the National Weather Service at Spokane said the storm was given extra muscle by a deep low-pressure system off the coast of Washington. The damaging gusts, many between 50 and 60 miles per hour, occurred when stronger winds at higher altitudes mixed down to the surface via thunderstorms and rain bursts.

A funnel-shaped cloud near Moscow was captured on video and posted on Facebook. Van Horn said meteorologists don’t believe it was a tornado, but the video didn’t provide enough information to say one way or another.

“We are thinking it could just be some rain creating a rain shaft that looks like a funnel cloud or what we refer to as just scud moisture below the bottom of a cloud itself,” he said. “At best, it’s inconclusive, but it doesn’t look like a funnel cloud to us.”

Van Horn said today will see breezy conditions and scattered showers, but the powerful and potentially damaging wind should be over.