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Santa Ana winds topple big rigs in Southland

February 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Several big rigs fell victim to ferocious Santa Ana winds, toppling over like toys on major freeways across Southern California.

By 11 p.m., the high-wind warning was discontinued but the high-wind advisories remained in effect.

Earlier in the day, about six big rigs went down in the Ontario area. That's good reason for drivers to give big rigs a wide berth.

"Give the trucks their space, it's windy out here, so don't get too close up on them," said David Morow of Downey. "I'm 235 pounds and it's blowing me around."

Early Wednesday, two big rigs fell on their sides as they tried to maneuver through the windy conditions. Both crashes occurred near the intersection of the 15 and 10 freeways near Etiwanda.

One of those rigs was carrying diesel fuel, and much of it spilled over onto the roadways. The driver said it was one of the scariest moments of his life.

The driver of the other big rig said he was trying to make a turn when the wind grabbed control of his vehicle. The car keeled over and fell to its side.

"I was making a left turn and the wind just up and blew me over, and lucky I didn't get hurt or I didn't hurt anybody. It's real strong winds," said the rig's driver, Angel Martinez.

Just past 11 a.m., another high-profile big rig overturned on the transition road connecting the eastbound 60 Freeway to the northbound 15 Freeway in Riverside County. Lanes were shut down as nearby motorists tried to squeeze through the shoulder to get around the crash.

These drivers were not alone in their misery. At least five other trucks were shoved to their sides by the strong gusts, some reaching up to 80 mph.

There were also many problems along side streets. Drivers told horror stories of their cars nearly flipping or having to dodge an adjacent car that lost control in the wind.

"We're alerting passenger vehicles that when you're alongside of a high-profile vehicle, be aware that vehicle can overturn, be more aware of your driving, don't be on your cell phone," advised California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Briggs.

"I lived in Rialto and it gets windy out there, but I've never seen it this windy," said truck driver David Ramos.

It was so windy in Ontario that a mailbox was ripped out of the ground and tiles at the top of a restaurant's roof were peeled off.

Large traffic-guiding signs were also no match for the winds. They too fell over and created traffic messes of their own.

In Malibu Hills, northeast winds gusted up to 68 mph, while in the Ontario area, wind gusts up to 65 mph threw mud into the air and scattered outdoor furniture outside of restaurants.

The National Weather Service says higher wind gusts could blow in some areas before the Santa Ana wind advisory expires at 3 p.m. for most Southland communities.