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California windstorm: Widespread damage; more wind coming

December 1, 2011 | 10:46 am

Rosemont Boulevard San Gabriel
The fierce windstorms that battered Southern California closed scores of schools, caused widespread damage and left more than 200,000 homes without power.

Another round of strong winds was expected Thursday afternoon, producing gusts of 60 to 80 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The peak gust was 97 mph, reported at Whitaker Peak on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, the highest recorded gusts were also at Whitaker Peak at 61 mph.

Pasadena, Sierra Madre and other foothill communities of the San Gabriel Valley were the hardest hit by windstorm.

PHOTOS: California windstorm

Pasadena fire and police officials reported "throughout the entire 26 square miles of the city, streets are littered with trees and tree limbs, downed power lines and wires," Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck said in an interview in the basement of City Hall. "Pasadena seemed to be the epicenter" of the windstorm, he said.

Officials declared a local state of emergency, called all employees into work and asked for mutual aid assistance from Los Angeles County Public Works, Beck said. Pasadena public schools were closed, as were city libraries.

About 6,000 customers remain without electricity from the city's utility, Pasadena Water and Power, he said.

A tree split an apartment complex, forcing the city to evacuate 37 residents. Colorado Boulevard through Old Pasadena was obstructed by at least two large tree limbs. In the southern part of town, a tree lay across all of Grand Avenue. A tree fell on a car outside a Denny’s restaurant, and the driver had to be extracted.

As the wind picked up about midnight Wednesday, David and Michelle Cathcart huddled with their children in the hallway of their two-story, 113-year-old Craftsman cottage on El Molino Avenue in Pasadena and waited in terror.

Though all the doors and windows were locked, the wind slammed and rattled them nonetheless.

Outside, three trees, between 60 and 75 feet tall, almost seemed to bounce back and forth in the ferocious wind. 

“We were scared that they were going to crush the house,” Michelle Cathcart said.

The Cathcarts narrowly escaped disaster. The downed trees covered the family’s yard but missed the house, which has been in David Cathcart’s family for decades.

The first tree fell shortly after midnight.

“It was like thunder,” said Julio Carrera, a gardener and next-door neighbor.

“Then 40 minutes later, the other two fell, one by one,” said Michelle Cathcart.

So far, no major fires have been reported. But the Los Angeles Fire Department issued red-flag parking restrictions in hillside areas.

A small grass fire broke out near Occidental College around midnight.


High wind forecast: 'It isn't over yet'

Pasadena the 'epicenter' of windstorm, city manager says

Fierce winds blast Southern California; thousands without power

-- Sam Quinones, Matt Stevens, Abby Sewell, Teresa Watanabe and Julie Cart

Photo: Marcella Tailin ducks under her uprooted tree on Rosemont Boulevard in San Gabriel. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times