The storm was predicted the day before by the U.S. Weather service and was the result of a strong low-pressure rainstorm from the southwest moving north of Seattle. Winds and falling trees knocked out major transmission lines and other wires until more than 600,000 customers lost power.
Five days after the storm, tens of thousands of customers in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties were still without electricity. Seattle City Light took the unprecedented step of asking for help from other utilities. Thirteen crews from BC Hydro, Eugene Water & Electric Board, Chelan County Public Utilities District, and Grant County Public Utilities District traveled to Seattle to work with 40 City Light crews. The hardest hit utility was Puget Sound Power & Light, which had 500,000 customers in the dark, most of them in hard-to-serve rural areas. Three days later, the utility still had 59,000 residences and business without electricity.
Governor Mike Lowry (b. 1939) declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard to assist with relief efforts.
Deaths and Injuries
The following six people were killed in the Inaugural Day storm:
There were many injuries, including 15 persons treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. They had attempted to barbecue food with charcoal indoors or had run automobiles to stay warm while their power was out.
Both Lake Washington Floating Bridges were closed for a time. A state agency tallied 167 homes destroyed and 770 damaged. The City of Bellevue alone reported 100 homes destroyed and $1.5 billion in damage. Electrically powered sewage treatment systems failed and raw sewage flooded streets and waterways causing risks to health. The Red Cross opened 15 shelters.