Strong Santa Ana winds gusting up to 30 mph toppled trees, brought down power lines and made extra work for law enforcement agencies across Ventura County on Thursday by setting off numerous false alarms.
Thousand Oaks, where 25 trees were knocked down by midafternoon, was the hardest hit location, according to Sandi Wells, spokeswoman for the Ventura County Fire Department.
"Our most serious calls have been concentrated in the Thousand Oaks area, particularly in the perimeter of the city," Wells said. "Newbury Park, Westlake, Lynn Ranch and Sunset Hills have had a lot of wind."
James Boggs, an Inglewood police sergeant who lives in Newbury Park, narrowly avoided injury when a eucalyptus tree landed on the roof of his Subaru station wagon while he was parked at St. Julie Billiart Church on Borchard Boulevard.
"I looked up and saw it coming, but there was nothing I could do about it--I had my seat belt on," said Boggs, who was waiting while his wife delivered Christmas gifts to the church. Though the tree smashed all the windows on his side of the vehicle, Boggs was not injured.
One of the bigger wind-related accidents occurred shortly before noon on Westlake Boulevard near Agoura Road. A 50-foot pine crushed the windshield of a blue Ford Ranger pickup, which was delivering a Christmas tree to homemaker Peggy Stivers.
"I was wondering where they were," Stivers said when she heard the news. "I was waiting for more than an hour. I thought, 'I hope they weren't in an accident.' "
Chris Lopez, 53, of Santa Paula, was driving the truck, which sports the license plate "Tree 4 U." He was taken to Columbia Los Robles Hospital, where he was treated for a fractured arm and released.
The severely damaged truck had to be towed away. The tree arrived a little late to Stivers' Westlake Village home, according to Dirk Kronke, owner of the tree farm that delivered the evergreen.
Today's forecast calls for a wind advisory until noon, with winds gusting up to 25 mph in Conejo Valley and Simi Valley, tapering off to breezes. It will be sunny with temperatures reaching the 70s.
Thursday's winds, stemming from high-pressure pockets over Idaho and Montana, were gusting 30 mph on average, according to the National Weather Service in Oxnard. Camarillo saw the strongest gusts with wind speeds reaching 39 mph, said meteorologist Bruce Rockwell. "Winds at 50 or 60 mph are storm conditions," Rockwell said. "But 30 is enough to knock some branches off."
In Thousand Oaks, public safety workers had their work cut out for them.
Downed power lines at Pepper Tree Playfield in Newbury Park started a small grass fire. "That was highly unusual, considering we just had 5 inches of rain," said Wells of the Fire Department.
Public works spokeswoman Christy Keagy said a tree fell on an electrical line on Tarkio Street and another landed on a house on Venado Avenue without causing much damage.
California Highway Patrol officers were kept busy throughout the day as the wind blew open the doors of dozens of call boxes on the freeway, officials said. When a call box opens, the phone automatically dials the CHP's dispatch center, and each call must be investigated, officials said.
County sheriff's deputies responded to triple the usual number of false alarms, said Capt. Rod Thompson.
Despite the high winds, Ventura County's chief of public works, Charles Vivian, said county crews only picked up about five trees, most of them in unincorporated territory near Lynn Ranch in Thousand Oaks. Crews chop the fallen trees up and leave the wood at the site for the public to take away as free firewood.
When Thousand Oaks municipal crews chop up fallen trees, the firewood is hauled to the Goebel Senior Center on Janss Road.