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Tens of thousands in Southern California without power as strong winds whip through area

October 27, 2009 | 10:23 pm

High winds are buffeting neighborhoods across Southern California tonight, knocking down trees and power lines, leaving tens of thousands of people without electricity, kicking up massive clouds of dust and complicating landings for at least three flights at Los Angeles International Airport.

Strong winds also prompted authorities to close the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for 24 hours after a cable snapped about 5:30 p.m., the California Highway Patrol said. The cable broke on the westbound upper deck, hitting at least one vehicle and snarling rush-hour traffic.

In some areas of Southern California, winds were expected to blow between 30 and 50 mph, with gusts up to 70 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The agency also issued red flag warnings in mountain areas because of the winds and low relative humidity. Gusts up to 65 mph were recorded in the Angeles National Forest. Van Nuys recorded gusts of 55 mph, while Santa Monica reported gusts of 41 mph late Tuesday.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a windblown dust and ash advisory for sensitive people in the Coachella Valley in Riverside County. Wildfire-ravaged areas in the San Gabriel Valley were also expected to reach unhealthy levels for sensitive people, the agency said.

In Los Angeles,  23,100 customers were without power as of 9 p.m., according to the city's Department of Water and Power. The DWP serves a total of 1.4 million electricity customers.

Among the hardest-hit Los Angeles neighborhoods were Hyde Park, where 3,441 customers were without power, and Northridge, where 2,947 had no electricity, the utility said.

The DWP said crews were working to restore power in affected areas.

In areas served by Southern California Edison, about 16,000 customers were without power as trees and wind-blown debris snapped power lines, the utility said. The power outages ranged from beach communities in the South Bay and Orange County to foothill neighborhoods in the San Gabriel Valley.

In Huntington Beach, about 4,300 customers had no electricity, and 3,500 more were without lights in Arcadia, said SCE spokesman Gil Alexander. He said crews were trying to restore power.

"They expect to be working much through the night," Alexander said.

At LAX, strong winds this evening forced one arriving flight to be diverted to another airport,  said Allen Kenitzer, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

He said the winds, which were gusting up to 35 knots, forced two other flights to use "missed approach" procedures, meaning each had to make two attempts to land. Both flights landed without incident.

On Twitter, people from San Francisco to Azusa sent messages and shared photos regarding power outages, downed trees and other wind-related problems in their neighborhoods. "These winds are out of control," said one message.

-- Robert J. Lopez