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High winds down tree limbs, knock out power across the South Sound

Strong winds that brought down tree limbs and power lines, knocking out power Tuesday throughout the South Sound and damaging businesses and homes, were expected to die down Wednesday.

Overnight winds in the Tacoma area were expected to be 20 to 30 miles per hour, with gusts of 40, according to the National Weather Service. They were expected to be between 10 and 15 mph by Wednesday evening.

Tuesday afternoon, about 10,000 of Tacoma Public Utilities’ 97,000 customers were without power at some point, and residents of Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula experienced outages throughout the day. About 1,400 TPU customers were still powerless about 8 p.m. The company expected outages throughout the night in Northeast Tacoma.

Downed trees and limbs falling on power lines contributed to outages across Pierce County. Especially hard-hit were Fircrest, University Place, Fife, East Tacoma, the West End and the area near Allenmore. At least eight substations were affected.

“We’re still in outage hell,” spokeswoman Chris Gleason said when crews were especially busy.

In Edgewood, a large cedar crashed through the roof of Allan Kuykendall’s home on 10th Street Court East about 10:30 a.m. Kuykendall, 60, said he’d just had the roof repaired this summer.

“I'm just glad no one was hurt,” he said as he picked up insulation scattered across his living room.

One of the outages in Fircrest was attributed to two giant trees that came down about 10:30 a.m. along South Orchard Street, adjacent to Fircrest City Hall.

One tree crushed Allen and Julie Johnson’s aluminum fishing boat, and the other crunched the second floor of their home. Allen Johnson was about to leave for the gym when he heard the unmistakeable sound of trees falling down.

“We’ve lost limbs before, but nothing real big,” he said.

A large tree blew across Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks near Tacoma, spokesman Gus Melonas said. Clearing the debris delayed three Amtrak passenger trains and five BNSF freight trains.

At St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, visitors to the emergency department had to come through the hospital’s main entrance when officials closed the South 19th Street entrance because of falling debris.

Winds lifted large sheets of roofing material off the hospital’s South Pavilion, which is adjacent to the emergency department, CHI Franciscan Health spokesman Scott Thompson said. No one was hurt. The hospital’s helipad also was closed because of the flying roof debris.

Meanwhile, crews from Peninsula Light Co. worked to get power back to thousands of its 31,500 customers across Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula. About 1,500 were without power as of 8:30 p.m., spokesman Jonathan White said. He thought most would have power by midnight.

Puget Sound Energy said it had outages in Buckley, Edgewood, Lake Tapps, Pacific and Puyallup, but mostly in South King County. Pierce customers should have power again by noon Wednesday, the company said.

The Associated Press, staff writer Alexis Krell and photographer Drew Perine contributed to this report.

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