Windstorm could have been worse

When Coco Kleinert drifted asleep to the sound of howling winds at about 2 a.m. Thursday, she was still expecting the upcoming workday to unfold as usual. But when she awoke four hours later, she realized she would not be going to her office that morning, as a massive tree uprooted by the storm had fallen across the road, blocking the only exit from her cozy neighborhood.

“My roommate thought she heard [the tree fall] at 5, but there was constant noise all night,” Kleinert said. “We didn’t hear a big boom.”

Before coming to rest on La Taza Drive, the tree knocked over a telephone pole across the street. The pole, in turn, landed on the roof of a house.

Kleinert had an unexpected day off of work, as the tree prevented anyone living on the La Taza Drive-Tocaloma Lane cul-de-sac from driving anywhere until 5:30 p.m. Thursday, when city crews arrived to begin clearing the roadway.

Kleinert’s neighbor, George Dietrich, said that although he never felt the storm was really dangerous, the downed tree definitely got his attention.

“I couldn’t believe it, we were totally stuck,” said Dietrich, whose home is on Tocaloma Lane. “But it was just an inconvenience.”

City workers were able to cut a section of the tree to clear half of the street, but Kleinert said they told her clearing the entire trunk could take several days.

The completely blocked neighborhood was the exception rather than the rule in La Cañada, where Wednesday night’s 80-mile-per-hour winds left the city strewn with fallen trees and many homes without power. Still, the city was relatively unscathed, compared to neighboring Pasadena.

While 45 homes were condemned in Pasadena, the extent of the damage in La Cañada was limited to debris-cluttered streets and spoiled food in powerless refrigerators, according to Sgt. Booker Hollis of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station.

“Nothing has been reported as far as damage or any kind of injuries,” Hollis said Friday afternoon. “Right now it’s still in the process of trying to get all the power restored.”

Hollis said the damage in La Cañada was practically a best-case scenario for a storm of that intensity.

“With something this catastrophic, we’re just happy something like this didn’t cause more damage than what has already been done, as far as the trees being down, sidewalks being blocked, that sort of thing,” said Hollis.

La Cañada didn’t escape unscathed, though. Schools were closed on Thursday and Friday due to the power outage, which affected the entire city, and Descanso Gardens was closed due to many downed trees and limbs.

David A. Ford, Southern California Edison spokesperson, said Friday that restoring power had been an arduous task due to the debris obstructing many downed lines, as well as the nature of the power grid.

“One customer on one side of the street might have power while a customer on the other side won’t, because they’re on a different circuit than their neighbor,” said Ford.

So much clean-up is needed that the city declared a state of local emergency, said La Cañada City Manager Mark Alexander.

“We were in an emergency situation where we had to bring on additional crews,” said Alexander. “If we had to request additional resources [the emergency declaration] … allowed us to go the county or other cities and request mutual aid.”

Fortunately, a storm this intense isn’t likely to recur again soon, said Eric Boldt, the National Weather Service’s Warning Coordination Meteorologist for Los Angeles.

“We’ve been telling people, there was another storm back in 1997 as powerful,” said Boldt. “This is a good 10-year event, at least.”

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