National/World

Violent wind storm leaves path of destruction

Friday, December 02, 2011

Violent winds that wreaked havoc in Western states eased Friday but hundreds of thousands of people remained without power and crews struggled to clean up smashed trees, toppled power lines and debris-strewn roadways.

In Southern California, where the damage was the worst, several cities maintained states of local emergency for a second day and a dozen school districts remained closed.

A street in the Los Angeles suburb of Temple City was blocked by a row of toppled power poles, their wires still attached.

About 200,000 people in Southern California and thousands more in Utah - where Thursday winds topped 100 mph - remained without electricity. Authorities said some areas might not have power restored until Sunday.

Los Angeles County fire dispatchers handed about 3,000 calls during the windstorm, three times the average, Inspector Quvondo Johnson said.

In Pasadena, inspectors were checking more than 100 damaged buildings to see if they should be red-tagged as being too dangerous to inhabit. One 42-unit apartment building and other structures were red-tagged Thursday and two dozen more were yellow-tagged, allowing only limited access, said Lisa Derderian, the city's emergency management coordinator.

"Every street in Pasadena was impacted in one way or another," she said as debris removal was under way.

Still, she expected the city's cleanup would be expeditious.

"We have the (Tournament of Roses) parade every year here so we are experts in cleanup and debris removal," she said.

Pasadena is also known for its historic homes and wide, oak-lined streets that are frequently depicted in films.

On Thursday, many residents blamed the city for protecting its old trees from over-trimming to such an extent that they became a public safety hazard during the windstorm.

Vince Mehrabian, the general manager at A&B Motor Cars, estimated eight Lexus, Cadillac and other luxury cars had been destroyed by fallen limbs. He said he'd been asking the city for four years to trim the trees more.

Meanwhile, in Northern California, crews battled wildfires Friday that were sparked by power lines blown down by the wind. Nearly two dozen fires erupted Thursday but some were contained and most were confined to a few acres of land. Winds were blamed for the destruction of at least four homes.

"Our crews made good progress last night holding the lines," said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Aiding firefighters and those involved in the cleanup was the fact that high winds, which had been expected to return overnight, never materialized. Around the state, the 60- to 80-mph wind gusts of the previous day had become mere breezes.

The low-pressure system that had spawned the winds was moving eastward so quickly that the National Weather Service canceled red flag warnings that predicted extreme fire danger from the gusty, dry weather.

A new system was expected to move into Arizona on Friday night, bringing a chance of more winds over the weekend but the winds will not be as strong, weather service meteorologist Eric Boldt said.

Nevada could get 35-mph sustained winds with gusts to 70 mph, while Wyoming and Utah could see light snow and New Mexico was warned to expect heavier snow and freezing drizzle.

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Associated Press writers John Rogers and Alicia Chang in Los Angeles, Jennifer Dobner in Salt Lake City, Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco and Oskar Garcia in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

(Copyright ©2014 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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