High Winds Calm, But Wildfires, Highway Closures Continue

Sep 7, 2020

A red flag warning remains in effect until Monday evening through parts of eastern Washington.
Credit Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington's Department of Transportation has reopened several highways that have been closed much of the day due to blowing dust from fields and wildfire smoke.

Interstate 90 from Ritzville to the Grant County line and U.S. 395 from Ritzville's junction with I-90 have now reopened after being closed for several hours. Also in the area, State Routes 21 and 261 are now open to traffic.

 

Smoke still had socked in around Ritzville at 7 am Monday evening.
Credit Washington State Department of Transportation

Several state routes in Adams and other southeast Washington counties also reopened as the sun began to set. But other highways remained closed. Those include 21 between Wilbur and Odessa and State Route 23 between Sprague and St. John.

Highway 2 is or has been closed in many areas, including a stretch west of Airway Heights because of a wildfire in the Deep Creek area. Highway 2 near Davenport was expected to stay closed overnight because of another fire in the wheat growing country. And a 37-mile stretch of the highway between Waterville and where it meets State Route 17 was closed as well. That state route was also closed for 30 miles between U.S. 2 and Bridgeport.

In north central Washington, State Route 97 is closed in both directions from Brewster to a mile south of Omak, about 30 miles, due to fire.

And in south central Washington, Interstate 82 is closed near Kennewick because of a wildfire on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.

More than 40,000 Inland Northwest homes and businesses remain without power heading into Tuesday morning. Utility officials say high winds and their results caused problems on Monday.

At one point on Monday, Avista officials announced at least 33,000 customers had lost power at some point on Monday. By 10 pm, the utility’s crews had reduced that to about 20,000. Most of those were in the Spokane metro area, Colville and Sandpoint.

Late Monday night, Inland Power reported it still had more than 11,000 customers in the dark. About three-fourths of those were in the Spokane area and more than a thousand each in Lincoln and Bonner Counties.

And Kootenai Electric Cooperative also reported about 11,000 customers still affected, from the south and west sides of Lake Pend Oreille, south to the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation.

All of the utilities warned customers that, due to the number of outages, they may have to wait a day or two before they’re reconnected.