Skip to main content

Cleanup continues in California after damaging winds

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 9:58 PM EST, Sat December 3, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 85,000 households were still without power Saturday evening, two utilities report
  • Hundreds of utility and public workers are out to clean up debris, restore power
  • L.A. County spokesman calls the windstorm "probably the worst" in over a decade

(CNN) -- Southern California residents and recovery crews continued their cleanup efforts Saturday, two days after powerful winds downed power lines, damaged structures and caused other devastation.

"From what we have been told, this was probably the worst windstorm to hit this particular area in over a decade," said Bob Spencer, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.

While the weather was good Saturday, with clear skies and high temperatures in the 60s, that didn't mean the headaches were over. Residents still faced the prospect of new wildfires breaking out and spreading -- as evidenced by the red-flag warning in effect through Sunday morning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The National Weather Service issued the warning -- which means that conditions are favorable for fire to grow rapidly if it ignites -- through Sunday morning due to gusty northeast winds and low relative humidity.

The strong winds that continued to blow Saturday, though, were well short of the hurricane-force gusts measured Thursday and Friday. It was an extreme manifestation of a regional reality: Santa Ana winds, a condition in which strong winds descend to the Pacific Coast around Los Angeles from inland desert regions, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service reported gusts stronger than 140 mph along the Sierra Crest mountain ridge, while there were roughly 100 mph-hour winds in the San Gabriel Mountain Foothills of southern California, said Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander.

Widespread damage in southwestern California led Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich to issue a state of emergency "to ensure that state and federal financial resources are available to serve county residents impacted by the windstorms."

The effects are still being felt. Southern California Edison, for example, had 77,400 customers still without power as of 5 p.m. PT (8 p.m. ET) on Saturday, said Alexander. And the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported in an online news release that, as of 3 p.m., about 7,000 households in its coverage area still didn't have electricity.

Those numbers, while significant, mark a major drop from those reported several days ago. More than 200,000 of the Los Angeles utility's customers didn't have power at one point, while Edison had about 250,000 in the dark, said Alexander.

"Four hours ago, we had over 90,000 customers without power," Alexander said early Saturday evening. "That tells you crews are making progress, rather than responding to more outages."

Communities along the San Gabriel Mountain foothills, where he lives -- including Monrovia, Sierra Madre and La Canada Flintridge -- suffered especially extensive damage in Edison's territory. Alexander said that the utility had more than 500 personnel out working and urged residents to steer clear of power-lines for their own safety.

Los Angeles County also had "several hundred personnel spanned out across" the county to deal with fallen trees and clear out debris, said Spencer. That includes 50 county public works personnel alone in the hard-hit city of Pasadena, with the spokesman estimating they would be there for at least a week.

One positive, aside from gusty if not likely damaging winds, is that the weather appears to be cooperating. In Pasadena, conditions are forecast to be sunny or mostly sunny, with day-time highs in 60s and nighttime lows in the 40s, all next week, according to the weather service.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT