Blowout: High winds uproot trees, leave households without power
by Glenn Moore
Oct 31, 2013 | 3364 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Wild winds whip Tracy
Fire crews check for damage to a power line near a tree that fell on 10th Street during a windstorm on Sunday, Oct. 27.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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A tree lies across a car on Hoops Court on Monday, Oct. 28.  Photo courtesy Cindy Silligman
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High winds toppled trees and power lines around Tracy as a low-pressure storm system swept across the valley Sunday, Oct. 27.

Cindy Matthews, a forecaster for the National Weather Service, said on Tuesday, Oct. 29, that Sunday evening’s high winds were the result of a low-pressure system that backed into California from Canada.

That collided with a high-pressure system moving in from the west, and the pressure difference generated high winds throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

Matthews said a National Weather Service monitoring station four miles south of Tracy recorded a 45-mph gust at 10 p.m. The sustained wind speed was measured at 26 mph for the evening.

A certified weather watcher within Tracy with a LaCrosse Technology WS-2813 recorded sustained winds of 15 mph with gusts reaching 33 mph.

What was unusual, according to Matthews, was the lack of rain with the storm. Because the low-pressure system crossed the continent and not the ocean, it did not pick up any moisture.

Matthews said clouds moving through the valley on Tuesday were remnants of the low-pressure system that would give way to mostly sunny skies by the weekend. Temperatures were expected to be in the low 70s with mostly sunny skies.

Division Chief David Bramell of Tracy Fire Department said firefighters were kept busy with 55 calls for service in a 24-hour period beginning at 7 a.m. Sunday. During the peak winds, from 8 to 11 p.m., fire crews responded to 39 calls for service.

Meanwhile, winds toppled five tractor-trailer rigs on westbound Interstate 580.

Sgt. Robert Rickman of the Tracy-area California Highway Patrol said the five crashes occurred on a stretch of I-580 between Chrisman and Patterson Pass roads.

Rickman said the driver of one of the tractor-trailers had a broken arm and a broken collarbone because of the crash.

The highway patrol informed the California Department of Transportation, which issued a high-wind advisory for Tracy area roads on electronic road signs.

Rickman, also a Tracy city councilman, said the highway patrol also responded to numerous calls about fallen trees and power lines on county roads near Tracy.

A tree at Tracy Village Apartments, 435 E. Sixth St., fell on the building and blocked a stairwell. A ladder truck from Defense Logistics Agency Distribution San Joaquin was used to rescue a family of five from a second-story apartment.

Several trees on the 500 and 600 blocks of 10th Street snapped and blocked the street.

Chris Castro, a 10th Street resident, heard what he thought were firecrackers before he saw a tree near his home felled by the wind around 9:30 p.m..

"When I came outside, I heard a cracking — it was popping for about five minutes," he said. "I heard a long crack and the tree fell."

When the tree crashed into the house across the street from him, it pulled down power lines, and as the wind continued, Castro worried about damage to his property.

"It just got worse," he said. "The fences in back were ready to come down — these are old fences and trees."

Don Scholl, a city public works superintendent, said crews on Wednesday, Oct. 30, were still compiling the total number of trees damaged by the storm.

"Dozens of city trees had to be removed after the windstorm, and dozens more were damaged," he said.

Animal control officer Beth Palacios said the windstorm created more problems with stray animals than fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Palacios said on Wednesday, Oct. 30, that of the 16 stray dogs captured since Sunday, only nine had been returned to their owners. She said several other dogs were being held by residents who found them until they could be reunited with their families.

Fallen power lines also left some residents in the dark.

Denny Boyles, a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spokesman, said five separate blackouts were reported on Sunday, affecting about 242 customers within city limits.

Boyles said the first reports arrived just after 8 p.m., and power was back on for most customers shortly before midnight.

On Monday, Oct. 28, many trees and branches still lay across fences and cars awaiting removal. A sign damaged in the windstorm dangled from a cord on the wall of the Opera House building at the corner of Ninth Street and Central Avenue.

Tree crews cut up the remains of broken branches and fallen trees in yards and streets across Tracy.

Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or gmoore@tracypress.com.

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