Fierce Santa Ana winds shot down out of Southern California's canyons Tuesday, toppling truck-trailer rigs, ripping up trees, knocking down power poles and disrupting electrical service to nearly 180,000 homes and businesses.
The winds also whipped up several fires, including one that threatened new homes in the Newhall area before being contained Tuesday afternoon.
Life was at its most miserable in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, where gusts up to 60 m.p.h. roared out of Cajon Pass to blow more than a dozen big trucks on their sides, blind motorists with towering clouds of orange dust and knock down roadside signs.
Signal Lights Stick
Powerful winds also swept through large areas of Orange County, causing power outages, fanning fires, delaying trains and setting off burglar alarms.
About 1,500 Amtrak passengers were delayed when several signal wires were downed by the Santa Ana winds.
The fallen wires caused lights to freeze on stop signals so conductors and engineers had to ask special permission from dispatchers to continue on their routes, an Amtrak spokesperson said. Four trains running between San Juan Capistrano and Fullerton and two trains between San Bernardino and Los Angeles were delayed up to 20 minutes.
By early afternoon, when the winds began to decrease, the California Highway Patrol said several trucks had been blown over on the Pomona Freeway and on Interstate 15 throughout the Fontana, Mira Loma and Rancho Cucamonga areas below Cajon Pass.
No serious injuries were reported, however.
The problem began to diminish slightly as a high-pressure area and strong winds aloft both shifted eastward. But the National Weather Service said high pressure over Nevada and Utah would keep the dry Santa Anas whistling throughout the night.
By this morning, the forecasters said, northeast to east winds will be down to 15 to 30 m.p.h. below the canyons and the day should be slightly warmer--with the Los Angeles Civic Center high temperature 62 to 68 degrees after an overnight low from 42 to 46. Tuesday's high reached 63. The overnight low was 43.
In Orange County, temperatures Tuesday reached 66 degrees in Newport Beach, 64 in Santa Ana and 62 in El Toro and San Juan Capistrano. Monday's overnight lows were 53 in Santa Ana, 50 in El Toro, 44 in Newport Beach and 41 in San Juan Capistrano.
In Riverside, the Tuesday morning gusts were so powerful and the dust clouds so thick that many drivers had to pull over to the side of the road. Because power lines and poles were down in many areas, electricity was out, leaving street lights dark.
An America West jetliner flying from Ontario International Airport to Phoenix made an unscheduled landing at Palm Springs at 8:23 a.m. because one of its engines reportedly ingested a tumbleweed blowing across the Ontario field. No one was injured.
In Fontana, where schools were closed for the day because of power outages, a mobile classroom at one school was knocked over.
More than 175,000 Southern California Edison Co. customers--mostly in Riverside and San Bernardino counties--found themselves without electricity for varying lengths of time beginning Monday night as the winds knocked down more than 100 power poles and countless lines.
Hardest hit, said Edison spokesman Bob Crouch, was the city of San Bernardino, where the disabling of a substation for an hour and a half affected 10,000 customers. Rialto, Fontana and Upland also had interruptions.
Crouch said the wind was "the worst in a number of years" in terms of power poles and lines downed. The cost of repairing the damage would be more than $300,000, he said.
Twenty power poles were knocked down along Etiwanda Avenue south of the Pomona Freeway in the Mira Loma area alone, Crouch said. Another 35 were downed in the Sun City area off Interstate 215 south of Perris. That freeway had to be closed for several hours before dawn to allow Edison crews to make repairs, he said.
About 15,000 homes in Orange County had power losses ranging from a few seconds up to four hours, another Edison spokesman said.
Hardest hit in Orange County was the El Toro area, where more than 4,600 families lost electricity early Tuesday after 40-m.p.h. winds slammed a palm frond into a power line. There were other outages in Santa Ana, Orange and Garden Grove.
In Anaheim, 300 homes lost electricity for an hour early Tuesday, said Ray Merchant, spokesman for the Anaheim Utilities Department.
"We are having only a few isolated incidents reported now," he said late Tuesday. "The wind might blow something into the line." Merchant credited what he called "a very aggressive maintenance and tree-trimming program" for the relatively small number of calls.
By late Tuesday afternoon, power had been restored to nearly all Orange County homes, officials said. "We only have 20 customers out now," an Edison spokesman said.
About 1,600 customers had outages of various lengths in the Sylmar, Granada Hills, Sunland-Tujunga and North Hollywood areas as the wind gusted strongly out of the hills.
In the Newhall area, fire broke out in the 25200 block of Running Horse Road near Placerita Canyon State Park about 9 a.m. Tuesday, then was driven by the wind across 100 acres of brush before being contained shortly after 1:30 p.m. The fire was stopped by Los Angeles County firefighters before it reached new homes under construction. The cause was under investigation.
Wind also whipped flames through a shopping center in Orange early Tuesday, when one retail store was destroyed and four others were heavily damaged.
Times staff writers Cathleen Decker, Lily Eng, Nieson Himmel, Sandra Crockett and Marcida Dodson contributed to this story.