'Just One of Those Nice Tropical Days' : Gusting Winds Bring Damage, Rain and Hail

Times Staff Writer

Winds gusting up to 40 m.p.h. Saturday hampered efforts by Orange County firefighters to rescue a 27-year-old man who slipped out of a crane while cleaning windows and doing maintenance outside the fourth floor of a building in Cypress. And scattered rain and hail marked the second anniversary of a storm that wreaked havoc along the Orange County coastline.

Dennis Shell, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Department, said that Chris Hanson was working outside the fourth floor of the McDonnell Douglas Automation Building on Katella Avenue Saturday afternoon when he stepped out of his basket and slipped on the window ledge. Hanson, who was wearing a safety line, dropped to the building's third-floor ledge, injuring his neck and and lower back.

Weather 'Quite Breezy'

Three firefighters climbed about 60 feet up an aerial ladder, where they found things "quite breezy," according to Shell, before loading Hanson into a rescue basket and lowering him to the ground. He was taken to Los Alamitos Medical Center, where he underwent X-rays and was expected to be treated and released.

On March 1 and 2, 1983, a killer storm battered Orange County, doing more than $70 million in damage, destroying three piers and sinking oil island Esther off Seal Beach. A farm worker was electrocuted in Huntington Beach during that storm, and at one point 700 homes were reported under water.

Saturday's freakish weather was only a faint reminder of the 1983 storm, but small-craft advisories and gale warnings were issued by the Coast Guard and National Weather Service. Variable cloudiness is predicted today for Orange County, with highs ranging from 52 to 58; a 30% chance of more showers was also forecast.

Tree Blown Down

A tree was blown down across the street from the Anaheim Police Department Saturday afternoon, and hail the size of peas was reported in Irvine, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and in other areas.

"We've been hailed on all over the place," said Huntington Beach police Lt. Roger Parker, "but I don't know how much. It's just one of those nice tropical days, and we're enjoying it down here."

And the Huntington Beach Public Library closed early after lightning struck a transformer and knocked out power about noon. Library director Walter Johnson said the repairs might take until Tuesday.

Fullerton police reported some downed power lines, but Costa Mesa Fire Department dispatcher Paul Starn said, "We've been pretty quiet for a windy day. They had some hail in the north end (of the city), but it didn't do any damage."

The heavy weather wasn't confined to the Southland. Six crewmen were missing and feared drowned in the icy waters off Northern California after their tugboat apparently sank in rough seas.

Coast Guard spokesman Brad Terrill said the Willamette Pilot III radioed a mayday call at 12:30 a.m. and reported that the tug was listing heavily in the stern and taking in water 50 miles west of Point Arena. The six crew members reported that they were donning survival suits and preparing to board a life raft when radio contact was broken, Terrill said.

Two Air Force helicopters aiding in the search sighted a red life jacket and a raft bobbing in the rough seas Saturday morning but found no one. "Aside from those two items, we have yet to spot any wreckage or evidence of the vessel," Terrill added.

Water temperature was reported to be 50 degrees in 30-foot seas in the area where the tug is thought to have gone down. The swells were being rocked by 40-knot winds, the Coast Guard said.

Homes Lose Power

"It's imperative that we find them (crew members) soon because of the cold water," Terrill said.

About 5,000 Los Angeles residents were without power at one time or another Saturday, according to a Department of Water and Power spokesman. Most of the power outages were caused by fallen tree limbs and power lines blown together by high winds.

"As soon as we restore power to some customers, we get reports of fallen lines somewhere else," said DWP spokesman Elizabeth Wimmer. "But right now (Saturday afternoon), there really aren't any serious problems."

The largest area affected was a 1,500-home section of Van Nuys and North Hollywood, Wimmer said. Smaller outages were reported around Los Angeles County.

Gulf of Alaska Storm

A storm system from the Gulf of Alaska triggered the heavy weather as it moved through Southern California and into Nevada, according to the National Weather Service.

A radio station in the desert town of Coachella, south of Palm Springs, lost its 252-foot transmitting tower to a 50-m.p.h. gust of wind. Spanish-language station KVIM-AM was knocked off the air for one hour. It had only one-fith its normal 5,000-watt power when it resumed operation using a sister station's antenna, according to a spokesman for the station.

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