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Windstorm thrashes Des Moines

Mirror staff

Wind gusting to 25 miles per hour in Des Moines caused power outages and a fire in an electrical substation Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.

No major power outages or other serious incidents related to the windstorm were reported overnight by officials in Federal Way.

A tree fell on part of 13th Avenue South near Celebration Park, but firefighters cut and removed it by about 8 a.m. Thursday, according to Debbie Goetz, a Federal Way Fire Department spokeswoman.

The city escaped the “initial onslaught” of wind “unscathed,” but the Fire Department was remaining “vigilant,” Goetz said.

Southeastern areas of King County were hit hardest by the storm. Winds reaching about 50 miles an hour were registered in areas such as Enumclaw, where officials reported numerous power lines and trees were blown down. Several roads were blocked, including sections of three state highways.

A fire in a Puget Sound Energy substation in Des Moines started about 2:30 a.m., when wind damaged a breaker, PSE spokeswoman Dorothy Bracken said.

The damage sent a jolt into the breaker box, spraying and igniting mineral oil used inside as an insulant and coolant for the wiring.

Flames rose high into the air and provided a remarkable display in the darkness, but the fire was contained in the box and no one was injured.

Robert Williams, who lives near the substation, said he heard a loud explosion between 2:45 and 3 a.m. It was as if “a World War II bomb went off and lit up everything around it,” he said. “My cat jumped higher than me.”

Bracken said she didn’t have an estimate for the amount of damage to the substation. The fire knocked out power to about 4,000 customers, but most of it was restored by 10 a.m., she said.

Puget Sound Energy estimated 140,000 customers were without power in south King County and north Pierce County by 11 a.m. Thursday.

Crews were restoring power to some areas, but they were “battling the winds” that continued to blow out power in other areas, Bracken said.

Staff writer Erica Hall and staff photographer Fumiko Yarita-Bonham contributed to this report.

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