Fierce winds gusting up to 70 m.p.h. ripped through parts of the Southland early Friday, flipping over big rigs and vans, knocking out electricity to thousands of residents and bowling over hundreds of trees.
High winds, beginning shortly after midnight and lasting throughout the early morning, affected an area stretching from the Inland Empire to Malibu. Despite the havoc, there were no reports of serious injuries, authorities said.
Hardest hit was the City of Ontario where early morning winds exceeding 60 m.p.h. overturned at least a dozen trucks near the junction of Interstate 10 and Interstate 15, the California Highway Patrol said. The overturned trucks backed up traffic heading for Los Angeles for several miles.
Due to Return Tonight
Strong, gusty winds are expected to return tonight and continue into Sunday through the canyons and passes. "It shouldn't be as strong as Friday's, but it could reach up to 45 and maybe 50 miles per hour," said Dan Bowman of WeatherData, which provides forecasts for The Times.
Bowman said the source of the strong winds was a high-pressure system that developed Thursday over Idaho. "As the system moved south, it pushed air out away from it."
Throughout the Inland Empire Friday, workmen--wearing bandannas and goggles to keep sand out of their eyes--walked in teams along the freeways and city streets picking up debris and trimming broken branches.
"I saw 17 dad-blamed trucks laying flat on their side this morning," said truck driver Roger Lindsey, 29, of Pell City, Ala. Lindsey was one of many drivers who were waiting at an Ontario truck stop for the winds to subside and the CHP to lift a travel restriction along Interstates 10 and 15.
"That wind pushed me around pretty good too," Lindsey said. "I was pullin' 30,198 pounds of coconut that was rockin' and rollin'."
James Lewis, 28, of Las Vegas, was one of the unlucky ones. At 11 p.m. Thursday night, a sudden gust lifted the trailer he was hauling off the pavement and tossed it on its side.
"I watched it fall in the rear view mirror," Lewis said, standing beside the disabled trailer. "All I could say was, 'There she goes.' "
Thick Clouds of Dust
CHP Sgt. Bruce Albini said the high winds raised thick clouds of dust and sand that severely reduced visibility in the Ontario area. "At 9 a.m. you couldn't see 50 feet in front of the car," he said.
In Malibu, northeast winds blowing off the canyons tossed a mobile home onto a parked car, destroying the home. Fire Department officials received numerous calls of power outages, overturned cars and parts of roofs being blown off.
"I've been knocked off my feet by 80-m.p.h. winds and these weren't quite that," said Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Ed Devine in the Malibu substation. "These were gusts of around 60 to 70 m.p.h. They died down as the morning progressed. Most of the damage took place between sunup and 9 a.m."
About 2,400 homes and businesses were without power most of the morning in the San Fernando Valley communities of Chatsworth, Canoga Park and Granada Hills. A Department of Water & Power employee working in a cherry-picker was struck on the head by a falling branch and hospitalized for minor injuries, a DWP spokesman said.
Billboard Hits Cars
Strong winds in Chatsworth tore a large billboard from its frame on busy Devonshire Boulevard and toppled trees onto two parked cars. Police reported that numerous traffic lights were not working throughout the western part of the Valley.
Southern California Edison spokeswoman Sue Noreen said that 85,000 homes and businesses in the San Bernardino area had lost power for varying periods. Winds began diminishing Friday afternoon and Edison work crews had restored power to all but a few hundred homes, Noreen said.
Ontario International Airport spokeswoman Angie Azelton said that a California Air Guard hangar located at the southern end of the airport "had some roof damage and broken windows." Beyond that, there were no problems reported at the airport although a few airlines had canceled some morning flights as a safety precaution, she said.
Louis Sahagan reported from San Bernardino County and Mark Arax from Los Angeles.