Storms Leave West and South Powerless

Winds gusting up to 90 mph left at least 100,000 homes and businesses without electricity today in western Washington as snow snarled traffic in other parts of the state.

A lingering ice storm, meanwhile, kept as many as 150,000 customers in Arkansas and Texas struggling without power.

And Wyoming braced for yet another snow lashing and strong winds, predicted to push the wind chill reading to 60 below zero. Mountain passes throughout the state were closed as road crews set off explosives to trigger avalanches.

On Washington’s principal east-west artery, Interstate 90, one death was reported on snowy roads, and eastbound lanes were closed for about four hours by fallen trees. After it reopened, it was closed by traffic accidents as snow squalls built drifts and reduced visibility.

Portland General Electric and Pacificorp said the high winds and falling trees temporarily cut service to about 45,000 customers in Oregon.

Rapid Cold Front The National Weather Service blamed the blustery weather on a rapidly moving cold front that blew out a brief warm spell.

To the south and east, the storm that slathered a coating of ice on trees, streets and power lines in Arkansas kept more than 80,000 homes and businesses without power today, and more freezing rain was predicted for later in the day. More than 100 schools were closed throughout the state.

A similar number of households in Texas remained powerless, but temperatures were rising and the situation was returning to normal more quickly. Some residents in East Texas, however, were told they would be in the dark through the weekend.

In Louisiana, 43,000 customers were still without power on Friday, and many were frustrated without such conveniences as dishwashers and televisions.

“We’re going stir crazy inside here,” 76-year-old Shreveport resident Walter Bruce said.

“It is like living back in the 1800s,” said his son Kenney Bruce.

Waiting for Relief Two people in Arkansas died Thursday in traffic accidents caused by slick roads, and several communities called for Arkansas National Guard generators to keep water systems running.

Police in Magnolia had to direct traffic at a McDonald’s restaurant that was mobbed Thursday because one of the few places in town with both heat and lights.

“We’ve been having new [outages] come along. The trees are holding up the load of ice the best they can, and then they fall,” said David Lewis, spokesman for Entergy Arkansas, the state’s largest electric utility.

He said 80 percent of homes without power would be back on line by Saturday, although some customers might have to wait until late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

“I’ve not seen an ice storm like this since 1972 or ’73,” said Wynne Assistant Fire Chief Mike Hamrick said. “It’s not melting.”