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Wind cleanup under way; many still without power

December 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Crews are cleaning up after a violent wind storm that carved a path of destruction across Southern California.

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Los Angeles County declared a state of emergency as a result of the worst wind storm in years.

The conditions were much calmer Friday, but the cleanup job is immense in places such as Pasadena and across the San Gabriel Valley, where countless trees and power lines were knocked down.

An army of cleanup crews descended on Pasadena Friday. Armed with leaf-blowers and chainsaws, workers moved as quickly as they could to clear streets and sidewalks to let people in and out of their homes.

"We're going to clear everything out, make it safe, and just kind of move on to the next site," said tree trimmer John McCormick.

Winds toppled 450 trees, damaged 200 buildings and knocked out power to about 2,400 customers there in Pasadena.

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Of the 200 buildings in Pasadena that were damaged by the wind, 42 were red-tagged, marked as non-habitable.

In response, the American Red Cross set up a local shelter at Jackie Robinson Park Recreation Center on 1081 N. Fair Oaks Avenue. More than two dozen people spent the night there.

Residents said the destruction was unbelievable.

"I've never seen anything like this. These trees are nice, majestic and now they're down," said Pasadena resident Randy Medina.

Neighborhoods normally shaded by a thick canopy of leaves are now littered with piles of broken branches.

"This is one of the things we love about this neighborhood. The trees here are awesome. You've got lots of parrots here. Thousands of parrots come here and sit in the trees. So it became a huge liability," said Pasadena resident Dan Brienen.

While the damage is everywhere, everyone also understands it could have been much worse.

"We feel really blessed because everybody in the whole area here, from what we know of, the injuries are way down. So it's a little bit of damage," said Brienen.

Workers promise they will get the community back on its feet quickly.

Get details on the power outages across Southern California.

"We got manpower, we got Bobcats, we got chainsaws, we got a lot of stuff," said Doug Fogwell with Pasadena City College. "We have the giant dumpsters over there, and we've went through probably 10 of them already."

The fierce winds also left Temple City in the dark. Gusts of up to 70 mph snapped more than 30 power poles and 150 trees there. About 30 homes sustained significant damage from downed branches and uprooted trees.

Crews hoped to have power fully restored in Temple City by Sunday.

The sound of majestic trees being reduced to firewood was heard along countless Temple City streets Friday. Crews were trying to clear a path on Live Oak Avenue after hurricane-force winds sliced off branches and uprooted trees.

"I never ever, in a million years, living here all my life, pushing 45 years, I never thought I would see anything like this," said Temple City resident Maria Daikovich.

Tens of thousands of residents are still without electricity for the second day. At least eight power polls on Live Oak Avenue snapped like twigs, leaving the lines to dangle over the streets.

"It's craziness. You never see anything like that. You never expect anything like that. Mother Nature has a mind of its own, I guess," said Temple City resident Emily Gaspara. Gaspara and her boyfriend are staying at his mother's house, one of the few homes in the area with a generator to keep food cold and the lights on during the widespread outage.

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

More than 75 percent of residents were without power Friday morning, and many didn't have water service. Officials said power may not be restored until Sunday or Monday.

Temple City was declared a disaster area and schools were closed. The mayor handed out flashlights to residents Thursday night.

Area resident Ken Lewis was without power Friday, but during daylight hours, he directed his energy at what is left of his maple tree. The tree in front of Lewis' home snapped, fell into the street and dodged his neighbor's house and car.

"The noise was like a train going through and we had no idea what went on. We were afraid to go out until the morning, and then we were just shocked," said Temple City resident Bonnie Nelson. "But I know there's a god because my car wasn't smashed by that tree."

The maple will eventually be cut down, and the power lines lifted off the street and power restored. The windstorm's lasting impact will be the sense of community it has helped strengthen.

"We've lived in the northwest. We've lived in the Midwest, and that's the kind of community that I'm used to seeing on a regular basis. Now, to see it even more so in a setting like this, it's been nice. It's been good," said Lewis.

See safety tips to follow in case of a power outage.

Dozens of businesses were closed because of power outages.

Officials said during a power outage, people should use flashlights instead of candles, leave one light on in order to know when the power is restored, and discard perishable food.

See photos of wind damage across Southern California.

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