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Santa Ana winds: Felled eucalyptus traps scientist in Pasadena

December 1, 2011 | 12:22 pm

Henk Postma shows a huge eucalyptus tree that fell on a guest house in his back yard at 500 block of E. Ladera Street in Pasadena

Henk Postma fell asleep Wednesday certain the last person he’d be hearing from was his friend, Wes Kuykendall.

Kuykendall, an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who had just arrived from working on the Mars Rover launch in Florida, was sleeping in the Postma guest house while his own house was being sold.

But Postma, a physicist at Cal State Northridge, was awakened by a phone call from Kuykendall.

PHOTOS: Santa Ana winds | Submit your photos

“I can’t get out,” Kuykendall said.

An enormous eucalyptus tree had toppled from a neighbor’s yard onto the 300-square-foot wood-frame guest house, buckling the walls, smashing its roof and a nearby lemon tree.

Postma’s property on Ladera Street in north Pasadena stands amid some of the worst of the wind damage the city sustained. Trees and large branches were dropping all across the neighborhood.

FULL COVERAGE: Santa Ana winds

As the wind howled in the dark night, the two men continued their phone call separated from each other by a dozen feet, trying to negotiate Kuykendall’s escape. Meanwhile, Kuykendall passed Postma his laptop through a break in the wall.

All the doors and windows had collapsed. Finally, Kuykendall found an opening into a crawl space under the house and wriggled his way to safety.

“I was ready to get my sledgehammer,” Postma said.


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-- Sam Quinones


Photo: Henk Postma shows a huge eucalyptus tree that fell on and destroyed a guest house in his backyard at 500 block of E. Ladera Street in Pasadena. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times