Fierce Winds Reminiscent Of Inauguration Day Storm -- Damages That Day Estimated At $100 Million

It's unfair to blame President Clinton, but for many Washington residents, today's windstorm is triggering memories of the day he took office, when the state was hit by a blast much more severe than today's in lives, power and dollars lost.

Six people died - five from fallen trees - in that Jan. 20, 1993, blast that moved across the state from southwest to northeast.

More than 700,000 homes and businesses lost power in the Puget Sound area, and Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn estimated damage statewide at more than $100 million as the winds ripped off roofs, blew out windows and sent trees crashing into buildings.

State officials said about 170 houses were destroyed and 800 more damaged. The storm produced gusts of 94 mph on Hood Canal and 88 mph on the University of Washington campus.

So severe was damage to the region's power grid that a Puget Sound Energy spokesman said, "Basically, our system was down around our knees." More than 1,000 of the utility's power poles were knocked down.

Hundreds of roads were closed by falling trees and limbs. Thousands of residents sought temporary shelter. Some sewer systems backed up when pump stations lost power.

The many highways and bridges closed by the storm included the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, shut down for hours because crews couldn't right a truck that had been overturned by the wind.

Jack Broom's phone message number: 206-464-2222. His e-mail:

---------------------------- Major storms in Seattle area ----------------------------

Nov. 23, 1998: Winds topping 60 mph cut power to 235,000 customers in the Puget Sound area, put part of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in the dark and killed a Snohomish County woman who came too close to a power line.

Dec. 12, 1995: Winds gusting up to 90 mph in the Puget Sound area cut power to more 400,000 customers, closing the Evergreen Point and Hood Canal floating bridges.

Jan. 20, 1993: The Inauguration Day storm killed six people, cut power to more than 700,000 customers and did more than $100 million damage.

Thanksgiving 1991: A Nov. 22 storm with 60 mph winds felled trees, cut power and interrupted the holiday for 40,000 Western Washington households. A woman and her two children were killed.

Nov. 16, 1991: A windstorm in the night left 400,000 area households in the dark.

Thanksgiving 1983: Winds gusting to 70 mph tore off roofs and cut power to 270,000 homes in Western Washington.

Oct. 12, 1962: The Columbus Day Storm - technically an extra-tropical cyclone - raged through Western Washington. Winds gusted to 90 mph in the Seattle area and hit 100 mph at Renton Airport.

Sept. 28, 1962: The first recorded tornado in Western Washington.