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Power Cut Off, Trucks Toppled in Severe Wind

January 21, 1987|JACK JONES | Times Staff Writer

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 residents and businesses.

The winds also whipped up several fires, including one that threatened new homes in the Newhall area before being contained Tuesday afternoon.

In San Diego County, gusts between 20 and 30 m.p.h. caused 20 power outages affecting 25,000 customers, a San Diego Gas & Electric spokeswoman said.

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.

Havoc on Freeways

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. 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 jet airliner 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.

Six Southern California Amtrak passenger trains--four between San Juan Capistrano and Fullerton and two between San Bernardino and Los Angeles--were delayed briefly after the wind blew down wires and left a signal light stuck on red.

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.

In El Cajon, about 11,000 SDG&E customers lost electricity for as long as eight hours after tree branches caused by high winds fell on power cables about 1:45 a.m. Tuesday, an SDG&E spokesman 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.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power had nowhere near that much trouble, although 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 morning, when one retail store was destroyed and four others were heavily damaged. Firefighters kept the fire in the 700 block of North Tustin Avenue from spreading to nearby homes and a large toy store.

Times staff writers Cathleen Decker, Lily Eng, Nieson Himmel, Sandra Crockett and Marcos Breton contributed to this article.

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