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Winds Punish Area for 3rd Day

Santa Anas continue to hamper efforts to contain a brush fire, and thousands of people remain without power.

January 25, 2006|Lisa Richardson | Times Staff Writer

Powerful Santa Ana winds continued to whip through parts of Southern California on Tuesday, toppling trees, leaving entire neighborhoods without electricity and feeding a wildfire in the foothills of the San Bernardino National Forest.

Thousands of households in the San Gabriel Valley remained without electricity as high winds continued to buffet the area and hinder repairs.

Hardest hit were communities between Monrovia and San Bernardino, said Southern California Edison spokesman Paul Klein. Lines were down at 111 locations, Klein said, and 16 poles were toppled by gusts of up to 70 mph.

Repair crews worked throughout Monday night and by Tuesday about 35,000 customers were without power -- down from 77,000. More than 148,000 customers were without service at some point during three days of fierce winds.

"If the winds subside, then crews expect to complete restoration before midnight," Klein said.

The wind damage Monday and Tuesday also kept officials busy in municipalities throughout the foothills; they fielded hundreds of calls from residents about fallen trees, small fires, broken traffic lights and flying billboards.

The La Canada Flintridge Department of Public Works answered more than 100 calls Monday as branches and brush swirled through the streets and workers hustled to keep roads clear.

"Yesterday's objective was just to open all the roadways, get the trees out of the streets so we had access to emergency vehicles and residents," said Public Works Director Steve Castellano. Removal would have to be delayed until the winds die down.

Also, 30 mph winds continued to fan a wildfire near Highland in the foothills of the San Bernardino National Forest.

About 522 firefighters were battling the Plunge fire, which began in Plunge Creek and had spread from 400 acres on Monday to 500 acres, said Georgia Smith of the U.S. Forest Service. Thirty-five engines and several water tenders, air tankers and helicopters were deployed to fight the blaze, but most of the aircraft could not take off because of the high winds.

The area was under a voluntary evacuation and a shelter was set up at the Jerry Lewis Center at 7793 Central Ave. in Highland.

High winds and wildfires are not unusual for the area but typically occur in September or October.

The National Weather Service said the region would remain under a red-flag warning through Tuesday afternoon as high winds and low humidity kept the threat of fires high.

The strong winds began Sunday, created by high pressure over the Great Basin and low pressure off the coast; they picked up speed as they gusted through mountain passes and canyons.

On Monday, a fire destroyed a home and damaged five others in Tujunga, and another fire forced the evacuation of 15 homes in La Canada Flintridge.

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