Santa Ana winds pummel Southern California

Dec 1, 2011, 12:44 by R.E. Christian

Thousands of homes in Southern California were without power Thursday after winds with gusts of 97 mph whipped through the region, knocking down electric lines.

The Santa Ana winds spread fires and knocked down trees, authorities said.

"We probably have over 100 trees that are down and arcing wires and transformers that have blown," Pasadena police Lt. Jari Faulkner told he Los Angeles Times.

Power was knocked out to 250,000 customers and travel was disrupted at Los Angeles International Airport. An meteorologist described it as a "once-a-decade-type windstorm."

Gas pumps at a Shell gas station in Pasadena crumpled when a large tree fell and a two-acre grass fire caused by downed power lines at Occidental College took nearly two hours to put out.

A gust of 56 mph was recorded in downtown Los Angeles before midnight, the National Weather Service said. Wind gusts as high as 65 mph were reported in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

The strongest gust, at 97 mph, was recorded north of Los Angeles in the Angeles National Forest, the Times said.

The Santa Ana winds caused havoc Wednesday night at the airport, which lost power for a time. Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said gusts were 40 knots or more, creating dangerous crosswinds as pilots attempted to land.

Two runways were temporarily closed because of debris Wednesday night, Gregor said.

High winds were expected Thursday in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and far western Arizona, said.

Source: UPI