Dramatic dust storm precedes thunderstorms, lightning across Northwest

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SEATTLE — A massive, dramatic dust storm more often associated with the Southwest blew through Eastern Washington and north Idaho on Tuesday evening in advance of thunderstorms, lightning and rain.

Washington state troopers said the dust storm or "haboob" reduced visibility to zero in parts of Whitman and Adams counties, leading to numerous traffic accidents, especially in the Ritzville area southwest of Spokane.

Crashes in the wake of the dust cloud temporarily closed eastbound Interstate 90 west of Ritzville, the Spokesman-Review reported (http://is.gd/ML9FvQ).

Avista Utilities said nearly 10,000 customers temporarily lost power in the Spokane and Palouse areas and in the Grangeville, Idaho, area.

Washington gets a dust storm like this every couple of years, said Matt Fugazzi, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Spokane. Winds of 40 to 50 mph kicked up a wall of dust in advance of the thunderstorms as the weather front moved up through Eastern Washington and western Idaho and kept heading north, he said.

Spokane International Airport reported gusts at 30 mph.

Four buildings, including one home, were destroyed in a fire that broke out in Mead, north of Spokane, shortly after the thunderstorm moved through, KHQ-TV reported. The cause of the fire was not immediately determined. It burned across 10 acres before it was contained. No one was hurt.

In central Washington, the Grant County sheriff ordered the evacuation of nearly 8,000 people from the county fairgrounds in Moses Lake in advance of the storm. Tuesday evening events at the county fair, including a concert, were canceled.

The sheriff's office said there were no reports of significant damage from the storm.

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