Gusts Topple Trees, Cut Power for Some


Blustery winds that barreled through Southern California left thousands of residents without electricity, toppling huge trees and carpeting streets with palm fronds and leaves.

Gusts of up to 60 mph caused outages to about 14,600 customers, most of whom were sleeping when their electricity went off.

Southern California Edison got its first power outage calls at 8 p.m. Thursday from a wave of customers in the South Bay. A couple of hours later, wide swaths of South Bay neighborhoods were darkened.

By 8 a.m. Friday, as many as 8,400 Southern California Edison customers in the South Bay, Long Beach and Compton had been affected.

In Orange County, no damage connected to the high winds or power outages were reported. The California Highway Patrol reported a higher than usual number of calls for debris removal, however.


But in Los Angeles County, another 6,200 customers who get their electricity from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power experienced power outages beginning at 10 p.m. Thursday. Twenty crews worked through the night and into the day to restore electricity to residents in Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, Sun Valley, West Los Angeles, South-Central Los Angeles and the Harbor Gateway area.

Some residents in Baldwin Hills, just south of Slauson Avenue and north of 64th Street, were without power for up to nine hours, DWP spokesman Walter Zeisl said.

By late Friday afternoon, power had been restored to all but about 1,800 Edison and DWP customers.

“This was all wind and trees,” Zeisl said.

The winds, fueled by a storm system rapidly moving through from the north, were made more powerful when funneled through canyons and passes. They averaged 25 mph to 35 mph Friday, gusting at times to 60 mph.

By today, the winds were expected to calm down to 10 mph to 20 mph, said Chad Omitt, a meteorologist with WeatherData, which provides weather information for The Times.

Damage from the winds was relatively mild. No major fires were reported. But gusts swirled so fiercely Thursday that they caused the collapse of scaffolding being used to repair earthquake damage to Northridge Hospital Medical Center, spokesman Wendell Mobley said. No injuries were reported.

Also in the San Fernando Valley, the Los Angeles Fire Department, fearful that high winds might endanger a tree trimmer who became entangled in palm fronds near the top of a 40-foot tree, dispatched a force of more than 20 rescuers, including members of the elite Urban Search and Rescue Team, to an Encino neighborhood Friday.

After hanging nearly an hour by a chain he had used to scale the tree, the independent trimmer was brought down shaken but not seriously hurt, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said.

“He had apparently shinnied up the tree with a chain and had been snipping palm fronds when a few large fronds fell against him, pinning him backward against the tree,” Humphrey said.

Thursday night, a 16,000-volt power line fell at Inglewood and Marine avenues in Redondo Beach. Traffic had to be rerouted for the hour it took for Edison crews to get the line back up, Redondo Beach Fire Capt. Eric Baker said.

The worst power outages occurred in such South Bay cities as Inglewood, Hawthorne, Redondo Beach, Torrance and Manhattan Beach, where 7,000 Edison customers lost electricity early Friday. An additional 1,400 customers in Long Beach were without power.