High winds buffeted the Washington area, fueling fires, zapping power to thousands of customers and blamed for at least one death, officials said.

Wind gusts near 60 mph in some areas hurled trees and branches onto roads and disabled traffic lights, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Officials said a priest died Wednesday when he was struck by a falling tree as he tried to remove debris from traffic lands. A 2-year-old boy was hospitalized after he was hit by a tree limb while in his back yard, the Post reported.

The gusty conditions forced municipalities along the eastern seaboard to cancel New Year's Eve fireworks displays because conditions were hazardous.

In McLean, Va., a gust sent the "U" of the high-rise USA Today building's sign toppling to the streets below.

A complex storm in the Pacific Northwest ushered in 2009 with high winds, heavy mountain snow and soaking rains, AccuWeather.com reported. The system was expected to bombard the Northwest through Friday.

Heavy rain and melting snow will cause streams and rivers flowing from the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean to rise rapidly, forecasters said, adding that mudslides were possible.The storm system was expected to be accompanied by powerful winds, with the strongest blasting areas south of the storm's track, forecasters said.

Poor visibility because of fog led to a multi-vehicle accident Wednesday on Highway 5 in California's San Joaquin Valley, KNBC-TV reported.

A storm that blanked the Northeast with between 6-12 inches of snow was expected to slam the eastern coast of Canada Thursday with dangerous blizzard conditions.

Raw winds on the back side of the blizzard were expected to make a frigid start to the new year in the Northeast.