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O.C. raked by fierce winds

Gusts topping 80 mph down power poles and trap drivers in Orange.

January 18, 2008|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

Hurricane-strength winds battered Orange County late Wednesday and early Thursday, trapping motorists, downing utility poles and interrupting power to thousands of residents.

Although no injuries were reported, 40 businesses in two Santa Ana strip malls probably will be without power until Sunday, said Larry Labrado, a spokesman for Southern California Edison. "Our guys came out last night and have been working ever since," he said.

The county's strongest winds were reported about 2:30 a.m. Thursday in Fremont Canyon, where gusts reached 82 mph. "That's hurricane-strength," said Steve Vanderburg, a National Weather Service forecaster. "You couldn't stand up in that kind of wind; you'd probably get blown off your feet."

The first trouble occurred about 7 p.m. Wednesday when the wind felled two power poles on Santiago Canyon Road between Jamboree Road and California 261 in Orange, trapping 20 to 30 vehicles amid the downed lines. Officials were able to back the vehicles out one by one, and power was restored to 72 affected homes by 10:30 p.m.

By then, another 1,642 Edison customers in Placentia and Yorba Linda had lost power after a tree branch blew on to power lines. Their power was restored by 5:40 a.m. Thursday.

The most serious outage, Labrado said, occurred about 10:50 p.m. Wednesday when 80-mph winds downed 10 utility poles on Grand Avenue between Santa Clara and Fairhaven avenues in Santa Ana, disrupting power to 3,500 customers.

By midnight, Labrado said, power had been restored to all but 225 addresses, and by noon Thursday only the 40 businesses -- including a couple of restaurants, a martial arts studio, bookstore and real estate office -- remained without power.

"We put the residential customers on portable generators," Labrado said. "We've mobilized crews to do the repairs; they'll keep going 24/7 until we get it all restored."

By midday Thursday, the strong winds had subsided, with only "weak offshore breezes" expected to last into Saturday, Vanderburg said.

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david.haldane@latimes.com

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