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High winds continue, many without electricity

December 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A ferocious windstorm led to widespread damage across Southern California. Trees were toppled, homes and cars crushed, and hundreds of thousands of people were left without power.

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A state of emergency was declared in Pasadena and officials urged residents to stay home after overnight gusts tore through the community like a hurricane. Residents were having trouble even standing their ground.

"It's insane. It feels like a post-apocalyptic war zone or something," said Michael Delgado of Pasadena.

Trees bore the brunt of the wind storm. Across the city they came crashing down on homes, cars and power lines. One tree toppled onto a Shell gas station.

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In Old Town Pasadena, trees caused major damage to businesses. The most damage was on the south side of Green Street.

"I have never in 36 years seen anything like this out here. It's just been crazy, totally crazy," said Nancy Adams of Arcadia.

Pasadena Unified School District was just one of several districts that closed its doors for the day.

Get details on the power outages across Southern California.

Just east of Pasadena, the streets of Arcadia were lined with fallen trees. The area of Huntington Drive and Baldwin Avenue had about 20 fir trees toppled onto cars and into the roadway.

"I felt like I understood now what happens during a hurricane, and I got a little sense of what a hurricane might have felt like," said "Don" of Arcadia.

He and his wife said they weren't able to sleep at all because of winds gusting up to 100 mph at times. Power was out in virtually the entire city.

See the full list of school closures due to wind damage.

"It was really quite frightening. Everything was shaking, the house was creaking terribly. It was a very unnerving experience," he said.

The city of Arcadia opened its emergency response center and shut down all schools, as city crews tried to clear roads and direct traffic.

Thousands of people across Southern California lost power. Southern California Edison said 213,255 customers were without power, and the hardest hit areas included Arcadia, Pasadena and Temple City. L.A. Department of Water and Power reported that about 141,000 of its customers were without power.

See list of wind-related road closures.

The L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks said hundreds of trees were knocked down in Griffith Park, along with a power outage on the east side and a high fire danger. Officials said Griffith Park would be closed until a complete assessment was done.

Tractor-trailer trucks in the Inland Empire simply pulled over. Strong winds tipped over a FedEx truck on Interstate 15.

"Sometimes, it's not worth it. You'd rather be able to make it home to your family," said driver David Hernandez. "You get scared a little bit, you feel the truck kind of wobbling, but the way this was going through, I swear, I thought a tornado just [went] through."

Hernandez said he steered through the winds in L.A. County, but he decided not to travel up the Cajon Pass with a light load of cut flowers.

The winds brought down power poles at the intersection of Beech Avenue and Arrow Boulevard in Fontana just before 1 a.m. A driver was seen slamming into a power pole in the pitch dark.

At Ontario International Airport, flights departed in the opposite direction because of windy weather. Passengers arriving at the airport said it was a bumpy ride.

"It was a little scary, wondering if whether I was going to land or not," said one woman.

Power was knocked out at Los Angeles International Airport and the surrounding area on Wednesday night. All nine terminals were without electricity for about an hour. The airport reported some delays for both arriving and departing flights.

In addition, the airport had to shut down some runways because airlines had not secured things like empty luggage containers, which blew onto the tarmacs. Twenty-three inbound flights were diverted because of the problems.

The winds were so bad in Griffith Park, officials had to shut it down over concerns of high fire danger Thursday.

A high-wind warning remained in effect until Friday afternoon.

"We want to remind everyone that these high winds and the damage they cause present a real danger," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "I urge people to be aware of that and to stay away from places of emergency. In fact, if you don't have to leave your house, why do it?"

City officials encouraged residents to call 311 for information and non-emergency calls.

Fire officials said residents should not be fooled by the cooler temperatures. Historically, some of the biggest fires in Los Angeles County have occurred in November and December.

Fire officials said they're preparing for the worst.

See photos of wind damage across Southern California.


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