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Orange County

Winds Down Power Lines, Uproot Trees

No injuries are reported, however, as dusty Santa Anas blow through. A gradual decrease is expected to begin by noon today.

November 26, 2002|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

As Ron and Anna Winship struggled to walk in the strong Santa Ana winds sweeping through Newport Beach's Fashion Island on Monday, they shared the same darkly humorous thought.

"As we were walking under the Christmas tree," Ron Winship said, "we were imagining tomorrow's headlines: 'Two Residents Killed by Falling Ornaments.' "

In fact, several of the 17,000 lights and ornaments adorning the mall's 115-foot tree dropped like glass leaves, prompting mall officials to cordon off the area and post guards to keep customers at a safe distance. That was a minor inconvenience, however, compared to the damage the 30- to 50-mph gusts did elsewhere in Orange County.

"We've had stronger winds," said Brandt Maxwell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, "but the real award today is for the winds being so widespread."

Maxwell said he expected the Santa Anas to begin to subside by about noon today. "They will make a gradual decrease," he said, "but it will still be pretty breezy in spots Tuesday night and even on Wednesday."

Monday's winds downed power lines, causing outages for thousands of customers; uprooted trees across roadways and, in one case, into a condominium complex; blew down freeway signs; caused a big rig to jackknife on the Orange Freeway in Fullerton; and stirred up thick clouds of dust.

Amazingly, no injuries were reported, officials said.

"Mother Nature mugged us today," said Steve Conroy, a spokesman for Southern California Edison, which had hundreds of workers toiling all night to restore power.

Overall, he said, about 16,000 customers throughout the county experienced outages ranging from brief flickers of power interruption to several hours of darkness. "If the winds stay with us," he said, "we could see some additional outages."

The California Highway Patrol reported several road closures caused by fallen trees. The most serious tree incident, officials said, was a 75- to 100-foot eucalyptus tree that smashed into a condominium in the 2600 block of San Clemente's Calle del Comercio, causing serious damage to the building but no injuries.

"It came through the back window, and the whole ceiling came in," said Mary Lynn Lippert, who shares the condo with her husband and two teenage daughters. "A big portion of the trunk is in the bedroom."

At Fashion Island, mall officials were trying their best to put a positive spin on the weather.

"It's actually a very pretty day out," said Shayne Voorheis, the mall's director of sales and marketing. "It's a nice feeling, an autumn wind and fall harvest weather. It's putting everyone in the mood for Thanksgiving."

Some customers agreed. "It feels good," said Judy Migliaccio of Huntington Beach. "It's brisk, the air is clean, and it feels like Christmas is coming."

Those whose livelihoods depend on sales at the mall's encampment of outdoor carts -- most of which had to close for the day -- had a slightly different take, however. "Outside is like a ghost town," said Liz Rice, who sells home furnishings from a cart at the open-air mall.

"I tried to keep the cart open," she said, "but everything was flying everywhere, so I had to close. Customers were walking a little bit faster and not stopping, especially when they heard those ornaments falling."

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