High wind warnings were also issued for Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Arizona, and early Thursday winds of over 90 mph in Utah overturned semi-trailer rigs and left 30,000 homes and businesses without power, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. In southern California, nearly 200,000 customers were without power Thursday morning, Southern California Edison told KABC-TV, while the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water said 87,000 customers were in the dark. The San Gabriel Valley was especially hard-hit by the outages, and the Pasadena area was strewn with downed trees. The storm—carrying winds of up to 60 mph in LA and up to 140 mph in the mountains-- is expected to peak on the West Coast Thursday and continue through Friday. The National Weather Service warned that winds as high as 80 mph are expected in higher-elevation areas near LA Thursday. Heavy snow hit the Rockies, the Weather Service said, and the storm system is heading for the Midwest and the Mississippi Valley this weekend. The Weather Service said there was a "significant fire threat" in southern California," and officials in the LA area said they were worried. "When you get 60, 70, 80 mile-an-hour winds, if a fire were to get established, because the brush is still dry even though we had some rain recently, it's going to be very difficult to stop," Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Mark Savage told KABC.WATCH: ABC News coverage of the Santa Ana winds.
At Los Angeles International Airport, power failed Wednesday night for about an hour, stranding waiting passengers in the dark. More than 20 inbound flights had to be diverted because of debris blowing around on the runways, KABC TV reported. By Thursday morning, aircraft were landing again. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor told the Associated Press that he was "cautiously optimistic the worst wind conditions are behind us—for now." Trees fell on freeways, on a gas station in Pasadena, and in front yards. In Van Nuys, a homeowner told KABC that he thought it was an earthquake at first when a huge tree fell over in front of his home. "All of a sudden I heard this huge rumbling sound and then the ground actually shook bad, and I wasn't sure if it was an earthquake or what was going on, and so I ran out to the front of the house and here is this 150-foot tree...I mean thank God it didn't fall toward our house," said the homeowner, Chris Drury. Several school districts announced shutdowns Thursday in the San Gabriel area, though schools in the LA Unified district were open. The Santa Ana winds are a fall phenomenon on the West Coast—triggered when dry winds blow west from the desert and squeeze through the mountains. - ABC News.
UPDATE: Strong Winds Keep 400,000 Without Power!
Severe winds and fallen trees slowed power restoration to 400,000 customers as abnormally high Santa Ana winds blasted the Los Angeles area a third day Friday. The winds, gusting around 60 mph, were forecast to continue through midday in Los Angeles and Ventura counties after reaching 97 mph Thursday, the National Weather Service said. In many cities, schools were expected to be canceled for a second day Friday due to the fierce winds, which gusted to more than 80 mph overnight. It was unclear whether Los Angeles' 4,310-acre Griffith Park, at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, would be reopened after being closed Thursday out of fear the strong, dry winds would whip up fires. Los Angeles County declared a state of emergency Thursday and officials urged residents to stay off the roads, for fear of being crushed by branches and debris. Many motorists ignored pleas and battled gridlock caused by broken traffic signals and blowing debris, the Los Angeles Times reported. The storm, which produced some of the strongest wind gusts in the region in more than a decade, was caused by a highly unusual weather system. In some places, winds suddenly shifted from 10 mph or 20 mph to more than 80 mph, making trees, power lines and roofs vulnerable, the Times said.WATCH: Raw Video - Strong winds wreck havoc in west.
A fallen tree sliced through an apartment building in Pasadena, forcing 40 residents to evacuate. Pasadena City officials said at least 40 buildings were so badly damaged they would have to be torn down. The desert winds, notorious for fanning regional wildfires, annually push their way west through Southern California and northern Baja California in late fall and winter. But this time, a clockwise high-pressure system parked over Northern California and the Great Basin was near a counter-clockwise low-pressure system hovering over Arizona. The blustery conditions extended across the Southwest, including Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico. In some places, wind gusts topped 100 mph. Bill Edwards, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.com, said the difference in pressure between the two systems -- high pressure to the north and low to the east -- added force to the winds. "In some places we've seen gusts over hurricane force, which for the Southwest part of the country is not something that usually happens," Edwards said. "This is a one-every-10-years kind of thing." Wind speeds were expected to start dropping Friday. - UPI.