Bay Area crews busy cleaning up after windstorm

Due to the wind a tree toppled over by Lake Merritt in Oakland and the sight is something people are stopping to take a look at.
November 22, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Crews around the Bay Area are busy cleaning up the damage from a wild windstorm. Strong winds blew through the area overnight into the morning, knocking down trees and leaving thousands without power.

The strong winds brought down a huge eucalyptus tree near the Lake Chalet at Oakland's Lake Merritt. The base of the tree is approximately 30-feet in diameter.

Many people saw pictures of the downed tree on social media and felt compelled to head over to see it firsthand.

"I think that trees remind you of, if you look right behind us, your roots," Oakland resident Dania Cabello said. "You know, a connection to the earth. So I wanted to come and pay my respects."

Oakland's Department of Public Works says it received 190 calls of downed trees as a result of the windstorm.

One of them is hanging precariously over a home on Rio Vista Ave., where PG&E power lines are the only thing keeping it from falling onto the house.

The homeowner has been told crews are coming but it may take a while because they've been so busy responding to other emergencies.

"I'm just trying to stay positive," Oakland resident Starr Saunders said. "We're all safe, we're all out of the house, meaning my roommate and my dog, so you know right now I would just like to get it fixed."

The downed trees caused traffic backups throughout Oakland. One tree fell on Fifth St. causing a backup on the 880 Jackson St. off-ramp.

But trees weren't the only thing that came down. The winds were so strong they even toppled light poles at Lake Merritt.

"Yeah, I don't know, I'm still taking inventory of the neighborhood," Oakland resident Sunshine Swinford said. "Where can we ride our bikes still or get around."

The winds howled overnight in the Hillcrest Estates in the Oakland Hills.

"I was actually praying last night, hoping that they would not smash down on our house," Oakland Hills resident Karina Hsieh said. "Or hit any of us, cause there are some really close to the house."

One tree came down Thursday night on Skyline Boulevard. It crashed into a fence and a horse barn. The family didn't want to talk on camera, but said they were all okay.

Neighbors were still in the dark Friday morning. They described the frightening sounds during the wind storm overnight.

"We could hear all the trees scraping against the house," Oakland Hills resident Mike Hsieh said. "It sounded like ghosts running around the house."

In Berkeley, winds made a mess near the Cal campus. Trees, branches, and other debris were blown into the middle of Telegraph Avenue.

Oakland's Department of Public Works says their workers are working as fast as they can, but because of limited crews and the scope of the damage they say it's going to take a while before it's all cleaned up.

A high wind advisory is in effect until 10 p.m. with winds of between 20 and 35 mph expected in some areas, and gusts of up to 45 mph possible in the valleys. In elevations higher than 900 feet gusts could be between 45 and 69 mph.

Authorities investigate two windstorm-related deaths

We are learning more about how the wind caused two deaths overnight. A driver was killed when he hit a toppled tree on Skyline Boulevard in the Oakland Hills. And another man died in East Oakland on Austin St.

William Merida of Oakland looks up at this big tree that lost a limb last night. The high winds brought it down. But it was where it landed that shocks him the most -- on top of man.

"He was passing by with a miniature motorcycle and one of the branches hit him and he fell right here," Merida said.

The man died in front of Merida's house. The situation became even more dangerous because the power lines also came down. The tree is on Austin St. near Fruitvale Ave. It has a red "X" mark spray painted on it. It was not on the city of Oakland's list to be cut down because it is on private property. It should have been done by the owners of the house.

"It's really dangerous because every branch is dangling even when there is a little bit of wind," Merida said. "They need to cut it down."

Another man died last night on Skyline Blvd. when he apparently tried to avoid hitting a downed tree while driving. Oakland police say the man collided with another tree on the center median.

Inspectors with Oakland's Department of Public Works say homeowners need to be more vigilant when it comes to their trees.

"This tree had a defect, a known defect, and the wind took advantage of it," inspector Mitch Thompson said. "This is a weak connection here, when you have two trunks coming together in a narrow angle."

The agency says now is the time to inspect your trees before the next storm.

Power outage doesn't stop Danville dance performance

Store surveillance video shows the exact second when the wind toppled a large price sign at the World Gas Station on Clayton Road Thursday night.

"The wind was whistling and, like, gusting very hard," said Ashwani Sharma with the World Gas Station. "The wind velocity too, it was too much."

Across town at Concord High school, the scoreboard at the football field collapsed in pieces. School administrator Robert Bass says students are already worried about next year's football season.

"We came out to assess the damage from yesterday and found out it was all gone," Bass said. "Right now, we have no idea how we're going to pay for it. It's not like we have a lot of money in the coffers."

In Danville, the wind caused the power to go out just as dancers at San Ramon High School were beginning a performance. Once the audience turned on their cellphones, the dancers performed one of their routines.

"That was definitely one of my favorite moments, because everyone had their phones and were shining the lights on so they could see," San Ramon student Natalie Brown said. "It was just awesome how the audience stayed."

The full performance has been rescheduled for Friday evening.

Windstorm causes power outages

The storm knocked out power to thousands of people. At the peak of the outage, 67,000 were without power. But crews made progress Friday. As of 7 p.m., about 2,800 people are without power in the East Bay and approximately 2,700 people don't have power in the North Bay. In San Francisco, the South Bay, and along the Peninsula, only a handful of people are waiting to get their electricity turned back on.

PG&E says if customers experience a power outage, they should call the utility agency at 1-800-743-5002 and take safety precautions, such as avoiding downed power lines and using flashlights instead of candles to reduce the risk of accidental fires.

(ABC7 News reporter Lilian Kim, Laura Anthony, Lyanne Melendez, and Matt Keller contributed to this story)

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