Strong winds wreak havoc across the Bay Area

December 2, 2011 12:53:43 AM PST
Strong winds caused problems in the Bay Area as fallen trees slowed drivers and thousands of PG&E customers lost power.

As of late Thursday, over 74,000 people were without electricity throughout Northern and Central California. In Santa Cruz County, nearly 30,000 were in the dark, mostly due to trees that came down on power lines. The East and South Bay also saw power outages.

Santa Cruz County wind damage

Scotts Valley and Felton were two of the communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains hardest hit by the power outage. For some, the damage has been more than just an inconvenience.

Steve Olsen and Barry Johnson are cousins who suffered the full force of the wind storm. A redwood tree snapped and smashed through the roof of their family cabin built in 1946. Luckily, they weren't home.

"This is the house for us that's got history," Johnson said. "All but five years of my history in it."

Cathedral Drive near Scotts Valley is lined with cabins and neighbors say damage literally depended on which way the wind blew.

"A little bit of shock, kind of thinking if it went my way that would have been our house, but just grateful that no one was hurt," neighbor Sally Weiss said.

When you look at the aftermath, it is amazing no one was hurt. The weight of a falling tree crushed one pickup truck in Scotts Valley. Fire officials say wind gusts hit 60 miles an hour on the ridge, and many say it felt even worse.

"It sounded like somebody was banging on the windows," Nick Stacey of Felton said. "I mean the whole windows were rattling, it was kind of like experiencing an earthquake without the shake."

Thousands are still without power. Many businesses are closed, and if they are open, like the Virgo Rising gift shop in downtown Felton, it's cash only.

"Luckily my things are OK inside, but it's just dark and cold and I'm just sort of sitting there hoping PG&E will come by," Karen Diamond of Virgo Rising said.

PG&E crews are running from one downed power line to another. Nineteen roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains are closed because of downed trees, downed power lines or both. Some repairs will take longer than others.

"It's the easiest section, I suppose, to fix so we'll get out the tools and get it done," Johnson said.

This wind event did not include any rain, and that will help speed the cleanup efforts. Since there was a wind warning, PG&E crews were mobilized and the company says it's working as quickly as possible to restore power.

San Leandro storefront gutted

Overnight in San Leandro, a vacant storefront was gutted after powerful winds knocked a power line onto the building, starting a fire.

The winds also toppled nearby steel fences and peeled back some corrugated roofs on a storage locker.

Tree falls on Fremont BART track

High winds also caused delays for BART riders after a tree fell on the tracks, creating major delays on the Fremont line. A train actually struck the tree just south of the Hayward station.

No one was hurt, but just a little while later a branch from another tree fell on the tracks in Union City.

BART trains finally returned to full service around noon after crews cleared the debris.


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