Santa Ana winds: More high winds expected Friday (video)
Santa Ana winds left a path of destruction through California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and other Western states. More Santa Ana winds are expected Friday.
(AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Leah Hogsten)
The wild Santa Ana winds that created havoc across Western states remain a threat in Southern California, where about 270,000 customers remain without power and some dozen school districts are closed for a second day.
The National Weather Service has issued more Santa Ana wind warnings and advisories in mountains and valleys for 25- to 45-mph winds, with gusts of up to 60 mph possible into Friday afternoon. Red flag warnings also are up because of the extreme fire danger caused by the winds and low humidity.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plans to observe cleanup efforts Friday morning at Griffith Park.
California wasn't alone in facing powerful winds - and major damage.
The powerful winds tore across several Western states Thursday and left a path of destruction that closed schools, left neighborhoods with a snarl of downed trees and power lines, and prompted some communities to declare emergencies.
The storms, described as a once-in-a-decade event, were the result of a dramatic difference in pressure between a strong, high-pressure system and a cold, low-pressure system, meteorologists said. This funnels strong winds down mountain canyons and slopes.
The violent winds eased but strong gusts still blew through the region Thursday night, at times reaching 60 mph in some California mountains. Forecasters said the winds would continue to diminish through Friday.
The winds were fanning fires in northern California.
The Sacramento Bee reported that as of Thursday evening, seven fires had burned more than 130 acres in El Dorado County. Five fires had also burned more than 250 acres in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties.
In Southern California, the storm knocked out electricity to more than 350,000 utility customers. By early Friday, 270,000 of them were still without power.
Gusts, which reached 80 mph, were blamed for toppling semitrailers and causing trees to fall on homes, apartment complexes and cars.
A state of emergency was declared in Los Angeles County, where schools in a dozen communities were closed.
In some neighborhoods, concrete light poles cracked in half. Darkened traffic signals and fallen palm tree fronds and branches snarled traffic. At a Shell station, the roof collapsed into a heap of twisted metal.
In heavily damaged Pasadena, schools and libraries closed and a local emergency, the first since 2004, was declared. Officials said 40 people were evacuated from an apartment building after a tree smashed part of the roof.
Pasadena is known for its historic homes and wide oak-lined streets that are frequently depicted in films.
Many residents Thursday blamed the city for protecting its old trees from over-trimming to such an extent that they have now become a public safety hazard.
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.
On a street around the corner, almost every tree was either cracked in half or missing limbs.
Elsewhere, Daphne Bell, a 30-year Pasadena resident, said she was kept awake by howling wind. "This is the worst, the absolute worst. There were times it sounded like a freight train was roaring down my driveway," she said.
Similar stories of downed trees and power lines echoed across the West, where winds in some areas ripped storefront awnings, filled gutters with debris and forced school closures.
In Utah, about 50,000 customers lost power along the state's 120-mile Wasatch Front as high winds took down power lines, but service was restored to more than half of them by Thursday night.
On Interstate 15, strong gusts blew more than 10 semi-trucks onto their sides, prompting authorities to temporarily close the highway to trucks. Commuter train travel was also interrupted after debris covered the tracks.
Schools closed in Centerville, where a 102-mph gust was reported. Mail delivery and trash pickup were canceled.
Davis County issued a disaster declaration to request state assistance, citing more than $3.5 million in estimated damage to infrastructure.
The Red Cross opened three centers to provide food and aid to people affected by the storm, and opened one overnight shelter in Ogden.
In Steamboat Springs, Colo., the roof of a four-story condominium complex was blown off and about 100 trees were knocked over, some landing on homes. A ski area shut down its lifts after a gust of 123 mph.
Even some weather experts were surprised by the wind's force.
"It's one of the strongest events that I can remember," said Brian Edwards, a meteorologist with Accuweather. "It's rather rare."
[Editor's note: The original version of this story misspelled Santa Ana]