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‘Once-in-a-decade’ winds wreak havoc in Valley, state

‘Once-in-a-decade’ winds wreak havoc in Valley, state

Stacie Makin battles 25 mph winds on her way to class at California State University, Stanislaus on Thursday afternoon.


POSTED December 2, 2011 11:01 p.m.

The “once-in-a-decade” strong winds event that swept the Central Valley — and state — this week is not over quite yet, according to the National Weather Service.

Another wind system is expected to push in early today. While this system will not be as strong as the latest event, according to the NWS, the drying winds in the mountains may still be strong enough to impact weakened trees or structures and pose fire concerns.

In the Valley, northwest to north wind gusts are expected to stay generally less than 35 mph today with the strongest winds staying along the western portion of the Valley.

Friday was the lull between storms, said Drew Peterson of the NWS.

“The first push was a once-in-a-decade occurrence. It was pretty unusual. Typically at this of year, we don’t get these systems; they usually happen during transitions, like from summer to fall. It’s been anomalously high with strong wind events; very unusual,” said Peterson.

The strongest recorded wind gust this week was 40 mph at 2:53 p.m. on Wednesday. On Thursday, around the same time period, wind gusts reached 37 mph.

Those strong winds caused a few problems around the Turlock area.

“We responded to several tree issues involving branches blocking roadways and small trees being blown over. We had three separate intersections impacted by power outages and an overhead lighted street name sign and stops signs that were damaged by the wind,” said Allison Van Guilder, parks, recreation and public facilities manager with the City of Turlock.

The Turlock Irrigation District responded to four incidents of power outage during the strong winds event. TID got a call around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday that four areas were without power in the South Modesto and Ceres areas, said TID spokesman Herb Smart. Also on Wednesday, about 1,100 customers in Central Ceres were without power due to a wire downed by the wind. All customers had power restored by 9:30 p.m., said Smart.

On Thursday, an outage was reported in Hilmar, around August Road, during 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Another outage occurred in Southwest Modesto on Thursday night. No power outages were reported on Friday, as of 2 p.m.

“If you look at what’s going on in other parts of the state … we have to consider ourselves fortunate for the outages we’ve seen so far,” said Smart.

Over the past three days, violent winds have wreaked havoc across the state. A state of emergency was declared in Los Angeles County after wind gusts up to 80 mph created a path of destruction, and fires ignited by the winds continue to burn throughout the foothills.

TID is urging residents to review electric safety and trim trees with heavy branches near power lines. A list of safety tips can be found on the district’s website, www.tid.com.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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