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Strong wind slams Columbia Gorge, could knock down trees damaged by Eagle Creek Fire

FILE - Fighting the strong wind at Vista House at Crown Point

CORBETT, Ore. – Strong wind whipped through the Columbia River Gorge on Wednesday, with peak gusts reaching near hurricane-force levels.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for much of the gorge and surrounding areas for sustained winds in the 20 to 30 mph range.

NWS officials said the windiest places would be the Old Columbia River Highway and Crown Point, where gusts could reach 80 or 90 mph.

Forecasters expect the strong gusts to knock down some of the trees that were either killed or damaged by the Eagle Creek Fire, a human-caused wildfire that swept through the gorge in late summer. The wind will make for hazardous conditions for any wildfire restoration work.

A sign was blown off its posts Wednesday at the Multnomah Falls exit on Interstate 84, the Columbia River Gorge Forest Service said.

Officials said falling trees and debris could also create traffic disruptions along the I-84 and SR-14 gorge corridors, and might cause power outages for people living in the surrounding area.

The warning for the gorge will remain in effect through Thursday evening.

Truckers on I-84 were urged to be cautious. KATU News spoke with one trucker stopped at a truck stop in Troutdale Wednesday night.

"I've seen a truck, I'm going westbound, he's going east," recounted Bobby Nadolny. "I've watched the wind just knock him over like it's nothing."

As windy as it was on Wednesday, there was no shortage of people wanting to come to Vista House at Crown Point to see firsthand just how hard the wind was blowing.

Others were caught completely by surprise, hoping to take pictures or see the sights.

"Scary fun" is what photographer Mike Gundelmann called it.

He was having to wrap his arms around a signpost just to hold still enough to take a picture.

"Just to make sure you can get it kind of semi in focus and hope that you can get something decent fast enough to work," he said.

While walking around and taking pictures was hard enough, driving around was even more difficult, especially the closer you got to the gorge.

"The wind started to blow coming up I-84," said Rick Verhaeghe, sightseeing for the day from Milwaukie.

"But as we got up here, the last mile or so, it got really windy and bouncing the car around a lot. But nothing like right here at Crown Point. This is just incredible," he said.

“The wind will extend out into Hillsboro and areas west of Portland,” said KATU Meteorologist Rhonda Shelby.

While the wind wasn't quite as strong closer to Portland, it was still blowing enough to knock some things over, like garbage cans, especially in the Fairview and Troutdale area.

A rock or some bricks -- anything heavy really -- placed on the top of your trash can will help keep it upright.

Garbage companies say it's good to put cans out as close to pickup time as possible to lessen the time and the chance they'll have to get knocked over.

Regardless, if you're heading anywhere on the edge of the gorge, just remember to hold on.

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