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Santa Ana winds: Pasadena on emergency footing as powerful winds whip Southern California (VIDEO)

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“These are the worst winds we have seen in at least a decade,” says Stuart Seto, a National Weather Service specialist in Oxnard, near Los Angeles. He says he expects the winds to continue gusting into the weekend, with winds as high as 55 mph through Saturday. “If you are on a motorcycle or a high profile vehicle, you may want to stay off the Interstate,” he adds, “as the cross winds will continue to be very strong.”

Santa Ana or not, the winds are unusual in the areas they are hitting, says Ken Clark, a Southern California meteorologist for Accu Weather, the largest private weather forecasting service.

Typically, the traditional Santa Ana winds would have swept through the Ventura County region in the Los Angeles area, Mr. Clark says.

But the wind pattern from this storm has taken an unusual course, hitting areas that are not accustomed to the Santa Anas. “That’s when you start to see more damage,” he says, because trees in particular are not accustomed to taking such a beating.

Pasadena was one of the worst hit areas, with some 450 city-owned trees downed by Thursday afternoon and at least one wind-related injury resulting in hospitalization.

“The town is rattled,” says city spokesman, Tim McGillivray. At least 16 city agencies have been put on high alert, with a citywide emergency footing imposed to handle downed power lines and other emergency calls.

“We don’t know how many trees have been weakened by the winds,” he says, “but at the moment, all our personnel are working to help clear debris and answer emergency calls.”

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