Crushing winds rocked North Idaho on Tuesday, causing flying debris, numerous downed trees and fences and leaving much of the region in a blackout without power into the night.
"There's downed power lines and trees across roads throughout Kootenai County," Jim Lyon, spokesman for the Northern Lakes Fire Protection District, said shortly before 5 p.m. "We're getting really stacked up and just can't keep up with responding."
Emergency agencies advised residents to stay inside and away from exterior walls or windows.
Meteorologist Randy Mann said winds in Kootenai County reached as high as 63 mph as of early evening. Gusts reached 71 mph at Spokane International Airport, a record for a non-thunderstorm event.
"Category 1 hurricanes are 74 mph with sustained winds," Mann said. "We've reached gusts that are near hurricane strength. This time of year we can get strong winds when there's a battle between cold and warm. This is a battle for supremacy."
Mann said the winds, which left the first valley snowfall of the winter in many valley areas on Tuesday morning as a seemingly distant memory, should die down to 15 mph today.
As of 7:15 p.m., Kootenai Electric Coopearative had 5,700 members without power, including many in the Spirit Lake, Twin Lakes and Athol areas, due to trees on power lines. Utilities warned residents that they could be without power throughout the night.
"Kootenai Electric Cooperative’s crews are responding to multiple weather-related outages across our service territory," KEC spokeswoman Erika Neff said. "All of our crews are working to restore the outages, along with three contract crews. We ask for your patience as crews work as quickly and safely as possible in the storm."
Major business corridors, including Appleway Avenue and Northwest Boulevard in Coeur d'Alene, were blacked out.
Avista Utilities had about 13,000 Kootenai County customers without power as of early evening. Systemwide, the utility had 104,405 without power at 5:45 p.m.
"Our outage information is updated every 10 minutes and every time it updates the numbers just continue to climb," said Debbie Simock, Avista spokeswoman.
Kootenai County Sheriff's Office Lt. Stu Miller said his agency had 175 calls for service pending at 5:45 p.m.
North Idaho College canceled all of its evening classes and activities.
Glenn Lauper of the Coeur d'Alene Fire Department said NIC's daycare was evacuated due to trees falling on campus. Staff and students were moved to NIC's Student Union Building.
Tim Martin, Coeur d'Alene street superintendent, said crews closed several roads due to downed trees and city crews waited for power companies to clear the lines.
"One of the hardest-hit areas is the Fairway subdivision," Martin said.
In addition damage in the neighborhoods, businesses also felt the effects of the high winds.
Post Falls Police Capt. Greg McLean said Graffiti Sound Solutions behind Taco Bell had a window blown out.
"Fences are down in the Windsong subdivision, causing dogs to run loose," McLean said.
Roof damage also occurred on the roof of a building at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.
Most flights destined for Spokane International Airport were canceled on Tuesday night due to the high winds.
JAKE PARRISH/Press Traffic signals are without power at the busy intersection of Appleway Avenue and United States Route 95 on Tuesday in Coeur d'Alene, slowing traffic down to a four-way stop. Businesses, traffic signals and homes thorughout the area were without power as winds topping 60 miles-per-hour tore through the area.