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50 mph gusts blow through downtown L.A.; powerful winds topple trees, damage jet at LAX

Winds topple a tree in Sierra Madre
Workers try to reestablish electricity to the area after high winds caused a large tree to fall across the street in the 700 block of Fairview Avenue in Sierra Madre.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

After a brief winter warm-up over the weekend, powerful winds wreaked havoc across Southern California early Monday, toppling trees and power lines and damaging a cargo jet taking off from Los Angeles International Airport.

The northerly winds kicked up Sunday afternoon and strengthened overnight, gusting up to 80 mph in Warm Springs in the mountains of the Angeles National Forest. In downtown L.A., winds reached 50 mph, while Saugus and Van Nuys Airport had gusts of 57 and 53 mph, respectively. On Monday morning, winds had gusted up to 55 mph in Santa Monica, 47 mph in Inglewood and 45 mph at LAX and Catalina Island, according to the National Weather Service.

The blasts uprooted a massive tree in the 3000 block of Beachwood Drive in Hollywood Hills. In Granada Hills, footage from OnScene TV showed a tree that had plummeted through a house. At Reseda Boulevard in Porter Ranch, winds toppled a large pine on the westbound 118 Freeway, blocking two lanes. Joe Hernandez was driving a passenger for Lyft on the 118 when he struck the tree with his sedan early Monday. No one was injured, but the car was significantly damaged, he said.

“It felt like we went through a bale of hay,” he told reporters at the scene. “It felt weird.”

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Shortly after 3 a.m., a 747 cargo aircraft was taking off from LAX when it struck a trash bin that had blown onto the runway. The bin hit the nose gear of the aircraft, causing two of the tires to blow out, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Seven people who were on board at the time were not injured, officials said.

A woman is surrounded by palm fronds while waiting for the bus in San Pedro
A woman is surrounded by palm fronds while waiting for the bus in San Pedro Monday.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Winds of 20 to 30 mph are expected to continue through much of Monday, but may weaken by the afternoon. The winds will shift northeasterly Tuesday, said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

The weather service issued a wind advisory through noon Monday for the San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles County coast, downtown L.A. and Catalina and Santa Barbara islands. The advisory warns of gusty winds that can toss unsecured objects and make driving difficult, especially for high-profile vehicles.

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“We have a cold front that’s going through the region associated with an area of low pressure that’s diving into eastern California,” Sweet said. “It’s going to stay on the cool and windy side now into Tuesday before things start to settle down as we head into a warming trend.”

The cold front also brought a smattering of rain along the northern slopes of the mountains in Los Angeles County and in some Orange County cities, including Anaheim, but did not last long, forecasters said.

A freeze watch is in effect for parts of Southern California, including the Coachella Valley, beginning at 10 p.m. Monday through 10 a.m. Tuesday. It will kick in again Tuesday evening and last through Wednesday morning. Overnight temperatures could drop as low as 28 degrees in that area, according to the weather service.

In Los Angeles, daytime temperatures are expected to linger in the low 60s Monday and Tuesday before warming slightly Wednesday. By the weekend, forecasters expect the mercury to rise to about 70 degrees across much of Los Angeles County.

The chilly temperatures come on the heels of what was a record-breaking warm weekend for Southern California, with highs soaring above 80 degrees in some areas.

A record high of 81 degrees was set at LAX on Saturday, surpassing the previous mark of 79 degrees for the day in 1954. In Long Beach, a temperature of 84 degrees Saturday bested the previous record of 83 degrees set on the same day in 1995.

The dramatic swing in temperatures can be uncomfortable and is a bit unusual for winter in Southern California, Sweet said.

“It can happen, but it doesn’t happen very often,” he said.


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