104-mph gusts recorded as Santa Ana winds wreak havoc across Southern California, causing power companies to shut down because of the extreme winds
The winds, which reached a staggering 115 mph, knocked out power to millions of people during the peak of the windstorm, which sent people scrambling to make sure they had enough batteries and chargers for their phones, laptops and TVs in their cars.
As they tried to drive, the drivers could barely see because of the blowing snow, said Andrew Dunn, who drove more than 80 miles from San Diego to Pasadena, California, on Saturday. “It was really scary,” he said.
Dunn posted video of his drive on Facebook along with the caption: “No power for all who try to drive this day.”
The California National Guard said the winds damaged several transmission lines and closed highways in some areas. “A portion of Highway 78 in San Diego County was closed as a result of wind-induced tree and powerline damage,” the governor said.
The heavy winds also knocked out power to parts of San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County and elsewhere on Saturday. A spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric said that a wildfire in Los Angeles destroyed homes, and power lines were also forced down in L.A.
Kurtis Alexander, spokesman for Caltrans, said the agency estimated there were about 2,500 trees damaged by the winds, and said there are more than 25,700 power lines damaged.
The winds wreaked havoc in Orange County, where a tree branch hit a car belonging to a California Highway Patrol officer early Saturday morning, according to police. The tree branch fell on the roof of the car and caused significant damage, police said.
On Sunday night, a tree fell onto a residence in Santa Catalina Island, near San Diego, California, where a man was checking the power lines and was knocked down. He was taken to the hospital in serious condition, authorities said.
On Saturday night, the winds pushed the fires in Northern California and Southern California back on the same route, which had been cleared of fires because of the dry conditions. The winds also blew the fires farther east, burning some of the brush and trees that had been cleared.
California has been struck by wildfires at least 28 times – twice as many as are destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
This year has