Northwest windstorm claims 2 lives near Seattle as strong gusts topple trees

Winds gusts generally reached 40-50 mph across the Puget Sound area with higher gusts along the Washington coast, and reports of fallen trees and power lines were spread across much of western Washington and Oregon.

PRESTON, Wash. -- Two people were killed near Seattle on Sunday when a tree fell on top of their car during a wind storm that brought gusts over 50 mph and knocked out power to thousands.

Maj. Rodney Chinnick with the King County Sheriff's Office said the tree snapped from the higher ground up the bank and fell across Preston-Fall City Road in the town of Preston just after 3 p.m. during the peak of the storm.

"What really makes me take pause, and my heart goes out to people, is the fact that having had a look at the car, I see two pumpkins in the back that probably need carving, and that makes me think that related somehow to the two victims in the car could be kids that are going to be impacted by this tragedy," Chinnick told FOX 13 Seattle. "My heart goes out to the families and especially to the little kids."

Firefighters said the tree's base measured eight feet around, and the top of the tree measured six feet around the trunk.

"Because of the rain and the wind, you may have trees that were weakened that could still come down, so I would urge everybody to consider staying home," Chinnick said.

Wind gusts generally reached 40-50 mph across the Puget Sound area with isolated higher gusts. Everett's Paine Field, north of Seattle, recorded a gust of 61 mph as a storm cell moved through. It was windier along the Washington and Oregon coasts, with gusts generally in the 50-60 mph range in Washington and 65-70 mph along the Oregon coast. According to the National Weather Service, Newport, Ore. measured a gust of 82 mph while a gauge near Oysterville along Washington's Long Beach Peninsula hit 86 mph.

Reports of fallen trees and power lines were spread across much of western Washington and Oregon. Over 160,000 people lost power in Western Washington during the height of the storm, while over 30,000 people were in the dark in the Portland area, according to Fox 12 Oregon

According to NOAA, the storm responsible for the damaging winds was measured as the strongest low-pressure center ever recorded in that part of the eastern Pacific Ocean. A buoy positioned near the storm's center measured its lowest pressure at 942.5 millibars -- far and away the lowest reading in October and edging out Post Tropical Cyclone Harriet's 943 millibar storm center measurement in 1977. 

Sunday's storm was the second "bomb cyclone" -- a name given to storms that strengthen at least 24 millibars in 24 hours -- in the week. On Thursday, a storm strengthened 50 millibars in 24 hours to reach a center pressure of 951 millibars. At the time, it was the third-strongest storm reading in the eastern Pacific, a rank it held for less than 72 hours before getting knocked to fourth place Sunday.

The current storm is still causing issues in the Pacific Northwest as it drifts toward landfall on Northern Vancouver Island Monday evening. High Wind Warnings remain in effect for the Washington and Oregon coasts and parts of the northwestern Washington interior through late Monday for gusts as high as 55-60 mph.