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Barb Graff, Director



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Wind Storms

Wind Storms

While Seattle doesn't face the hurricane risk that Gulf and East Coast cities do, but we do regularly get very powerful wind storms. Most recently, a storm in Mid-December 2006 knocked out power to more than 175,000 Seattle City Light customers.

Major Incidents





Mid December Storm

Caused biggest outage in City Light history.


The Inaugural Day Storm

Massive outages occur in Seattle, although the power was out the longest in the suburbs. Debris littered the road and traffic comes to a stop as traffic lights fail.


Mercer Island Bridge sinking

The bridge was under construction when it sank during a storm.


Thanksgiving Day Storm

Downed trees were a leading cause of outages that left 75,000 without power in King County. The wind also damaged roofs and broke boats loose from their moorings.


March Storm

60 mph winds forced the closure of the Evergreen Point Bridge. The wind also ripped panels off the Seafirst building, forcing the Downtown Library to close. Two people died.


Columbus Day Storm

It had 85 miles per hour sustained winds (equal to hurricane speed). Higher wind speeds (150 mph) on the coast demonstrated the protection that the Olympic Mountains give the region. Nevertheless, the damage was widespread. 46 people died throughout the region, 53,000 houses were damaged, and the power went out in many areas of Washington. It is not clear how much of this damage was in Seattle.

Issues to Note

Seattle is vulnerable to wind damage because of the large number of trees. Trees bring down powerlines. This vulnerability can be mitigated by tree trimming. The floating bridges can be another vulnerability because they have to be closed in high winds. Usually their closure is short-term, but twice (1979, 1990) floating bridges in this area have sunk in storms.

Economically, a windstorm's effects are similar to those of a snowstorm. They halt most economic activity for several days. Many people cannot, or choose not, to come to work because they fear long drives or must take care of damage at home. For local governments, debris removal and power restoration can place a strain on budgets. Despite these costs, the biggest economic problem from windstorms is property damage. Families can incur major expense even from light damage to roofing or siding.

Following the 2006 storm, 14 people in the region died due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Most windstorms occur from October to March when people need heat. Most of these deaths were the result of people using generators or grills inside their homes for heat. Providing public warning about this danger is an important part in our disaster preparedness education programs.

On the Web

How to Prepare for Windstorms (PDF) - Information from the City of Seattle, King County and Washington State.

National Weather Service Seattle - Forecasts, current observations, historical data and more.

The Storm King - Catalog of storms in the Pacific Northwest by Wolf Read at Oregon State University.

During an emergency, go to for the latest information.

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