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April 8, 2020

Strong winds rip through Central Coast

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—Powerful winds pounded the Central Coast and other parts of California Sunday, tearing down utility lines, dropping trees and limbs across roads and buildings and injuring several people. 

With some gusts recorded over 80 mph, the freak windstorm also triggered several wildland fires, shut down streets and caused numerous power outages for around 6,300 people. 

As the winds picked up around 7 a.m., local fire agencies declared an emergency “storm mode” and called in extra personnel to deal with the overwhelming volume of calls.

In several cases, people were hit by falling trees and limbs. A man driving through Moss Landing called 911 to report a huge limb that smashed through his windshield and injured him and his three kids.

Fire departments teamed up with the California Highway Patrol, local law enforcement and public work crews in closing dozens of roads around the county, mostly due to live power lines dangling across roads, parked cars and buildings.

In Capitola early Sunday afternoon a massive cypress tree toppled over, crushing a wood fence, lifting up a chunk of concrete sidewalk and damaging a corner of a home on 40th Avenue at Gross Road. Around the same time a large pine tree fell over Townsend Road in Aptos, crushing a corner of a second-floor deck and fence as well as blocking the roadway. In both of those cases, the trees and damaged property were still left to be cleared away Monday morning, as crews were hard-pressed to catch up with overloaded work orders.

“We did have multiple calls for roads blocked and power lines down over the whole day,” said CHP spokeswoman Julieta Trenado.

She added that a large tree tore down power lines over the northbound lanes of Highway 1 near the State Park overcrossing. That forced officials to close both lanes for hours. The traffic was backed up through Moss Landing in Monterey County.

Watsonville Fire Capt. Bob Warrick said crews in Watsonville dealt with multiple calls for lines down. They also responded to a tree that crushed a carport at the mobile home park on Holm Road. No one was injured in that incident.

“We did have couple engines sent up to Aptos because they got hit with so many calls,” he said.

Mobile offices, utility trucks and crews assemble at a staging area on 7th Avenue in Live Oak Wednesday as part of their efforts to repair downed power lines around Santa Cruz County. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

On Wednesday a sprawling impromptu staging area continued to operate in a dirt field on 7th Avenue in Live Oak, where about 100 utility trucks, two mobile offices and a flood-lighting system buzzed day and night. Some of the vehicles had been called in from around the state.

PG&E spokeswoman Andrea Menniti said Wednesday marked the fourth day the utility had been busy restoring power to county customers.

“They have made a significant impact on restoring power since Sunday’s wind storm,” she said.

By Wednesday morning crews managed to lower the number of customers without power to 36 in Felton, Aptos and Watsonville.

“Due to hazardous conditions and closed roads, PG&E crews were not able to access a few remote locations overnight to make repairs and restore customers,” Menniti said. “The biggest challenge crews faced was getting into narrow roads and around fallen trees.”

All power was restored by 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Overall there were 94 emergency calls to 911 regarding downed lines around the county on Sunday in addition to eight calls for wildland fires.

Power lines came down on Buena Vista Drive, Paulsen Road and San Andreas Road in South Santa Cruz County.

Scott Rowe, meteorologist with the National Weather Service of Monterey, said instruments recorded 78 mph peak gusts in the Santa Cruz mountains. At Watsonville Airport, gusts were recorded up to 46 mph. 

“A place in Day Valley, at 2,500 feet, a gust of 64 mph was recorded,” Rowe said. “The big one was in the north San Francisco Bay Area of up to 90 mph near Mt. St. Helena.”

In one case a news station reported that near Kirkwood, in the Sierra, winds were as high as 208 mph, a number Rowe said was still under investigation by weather officials.

Rowe said a high-pressure ridge from Nevada and the great basin area, mixed with offshore winds, led to the windy day.

“Almost all of the wind advisories have expired as of early Monday,” Rowe said.

Some people were still reporting power outages in the Larkin Valley area early Monday afternoon.

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