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California

Record-breaking 209-mph gust looks like a mistake, forecasters say

Storm clouds gather over Santa Monica Bay off Manhattan Beach on Sunday.
Storm clouds gather over Santa Monica Bay off Manhattan Beach on Sunday.
(John Antczak / Associated Press)

A potential record-breaking gust of 209 mph recorded atop a California peak is looking more unlikely after further study, National Weather Service forecasters said Monday.

The blast of wind from a cold storm moving south across the state was captured around 7:45 a.m. Sunday by an instrument at 9,186 feet atop Kirkwood Mountain, south of Lake Tahoe. If accurate, the wind would have shattered the record wind speed for the state of 199 mph set in 2017.

But forecasters now suspect the sensor wasn’t working properly, said Cory Mueller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

“It doesn’t seem realistic after looking at the wind sensor,” he said. “It was reporting high winds when we were seeing lighter winds and higher humidity than we were actually experiencing. We believe the sensor wasn’t working correctly.”

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The second-highest wind gust Sunday — clocking in at 125 mph — occurred at Alpine Summit at an elevation of 8,483 feet. Mueller said that reading appeared to be accurate.

Although perhaps not record-breaking, winds across much of the state were significant over the weekend. A window on the 41st floor of San Francisco’s leaning Millennium Tower shattered Sunday amid strong winds, according to SFist. Strong overnight winds also toppled a tree, which landed on power lines in Altadena. On Monday, gusts knocked over a big rig on the 15 Freeway in Fontana.

The chilly winter storm, which picked up much of its moisture from the Pacific Ocean as it moved toward Southern California over the weekend, is expected to kick up breezes through Tuesday morning.

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The mountains in Los Angeles and Ventura counties are expecting potentially damaging gusts between 55 and 65 mph through Monday afternoon. Coastal regions in both counties could see gusts up to 45 mph, said Lisa Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Even stronger blasts — up to 70 mph — are predicted for the Interstate 5 corridor. The weather service issued a wind advisory for the Ventura County mountains through 9 p.m. Tuesday, warning of gusts that could make driving difficult and have the potential to blow down tree limbs, resulting in power outages. A high wind watch is also in effect for higher elevations in Los Angeles County through Tuesday morning.

“Chances of rain are supposed to clear out of the area this morning, and then we’re going to have continued strong winds for the region,” Phillips said. “They’ll kind of decrease into this evening, and then overnight, they’ll start picking up again.”

Snow levels are also expected to drop to 2,500 feet in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, meaning local mountains could see a fresh dusting of powder. The San Gabriel Mountains are expected to receive 3 to 6 inches of snow, while the Antelope Valley could see up to an inch. Snow accumulations in the Grapevine are also possible, forecasters say.

A winter storm warning is in effect until noon Monday for higher elevations in Los Angeles County, including Acton, Mt. Wilson and Sandberg. The Mountain High resort in Wrightwood reported 4 to 6 inches of snow early Monday, Phillips said.

Despite chilly conditions in the mountains, much of Los Angeles County is expected to warm up, with temperatures in the low 70s for much of the week.


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