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California windstorm snarls traffic, leaves 340,000 without power

December 1, 2011 | 11:56 am

Sang Lee walks past a light pole that snapped in half at Lake Avenue and Claremont Street in Pasadena

The toll from a firece California windstorm continued to mount Thursday as officials closed Griffith Park, workers struggled to restore power to 340,000 homes and some roads remained blocked by fallen trees.

Broken traffic lights snarled traffic across the region. Half of South Pasadena remained without water Thursday morning because an electrical pump from the city's reservoirs failed as part of a widespread power outage, authorities said.

The winds toppled trees on Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena, where for more than 80 years the deodars on Santa Rosa Avenue have been strung with 10,000 lights over the holiday season. The trees had been strung with lights Sunday in preparation for the big lighting ceremony Dec. 10, said Maureen Ward, president of the Christmas Tree Lane Assn.

PHOTOS: Santa Ana windstorm | Submit your photos

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.

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.

FULL COVERAGE: Santa Ana winds

Southern California Edison, which reported 213,200 without power as of 11 a.m., said the heaviest-hit areas were in the foothills along the 210 Freeway and in the San Gabriel Valley, as well as in parts of the South Bay and Inland Empire.

In the city of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported 129,000 customers without power as of 10 a.m. On the Westside, the outages affected 17,400 DWP customers in Westchester, Playa Del Rey and Del Rey and another 12,000 in Venice. More than 19,000 were without power in Los Feliz, Hollywood and the Hollywood Hills. And more than 55,000 were without power in the city’s Eastside and Northeast neighborhoods, including 14,700 in Highland Park, 9,900 in El Sereno and 8,400 in Glassell Park.

The outages also affected 12,700 DWP customers in South Los Angeles and another 5,600 in the San Fernando Valley, utility officials said.

Both power companies called for customers' patience.

On top of the power outages, LADWP reported that a power outage in northeast Los Angeles had affected pumping infrastructure supplying water to the communities of Mount Washington, Hermon, Monterey Hills, Cypress Park, Glassell Park and Montecito Heights, causing low water pressure in those communities.

There are likely more outages to come. Another round of strong winds was expected Thursday afternoon, producing gusts of 60 to 80 mph, according to the National Weather Service. 

Around the region, residents were assessing the damage.

Dennis Lim was up all Wednesday night worried about the trees in the backyard of his San Marino home. But by daylight, it was his family's beloved 100-year-old oak tree in the front yard that had crashed down on Pasqualito Drive, blocking the entire road.

"It was awful. We were watching the trees in the back. We were watching it all sway. We didn't even realize our big oak tree went down until we came for coffee and all the kids were playing outside, and they go, 'Listen, the tree is gone,' " Lim said.

"It was the worst I've ever seen it," he said, referring to the winds. He and his neighbors were surprised that they didn't hear it crash, but were thankful the tree didn't strike any homes.


Do not enter: Buildings uninhabitable after huge windstorm

California windstorm: Widespread damage, more winds are coming

Santa Ana winds: Trees toppled on Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena

-- Abby Sewell, Rong-Gong Lin II, Sam Quinones and Dave Zahniser

Photo: Sang Lee walks past a light pole that snapped in half at Lake Avenue and Claremont Street in Pasadena. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times