By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

The season's first storm hit Del Norte County hard Wednesday night, downing trees and power lines and sending rocks tumbling onto Highway 199 near Patrick Creek.

The rockslide closed the roadway and as of late yesterday afternoon; one Caltrans official said the highway will likely remain closed for as long as the rains continue. According to the National Weather Service personnel in Eureka, rains will continue until late Saturday with clear skies on Sunday.

andquot;Large amounts of rocks fell. They're still assessing it. They can't even get to it until the rain stops,andquot; said a representative of the Caltrans Eureka headquarters.

Officer Kent Davis of the local California Highway Patrol Department said he was notified at 11 a.m. yesterday that the rocks came down between Patrick Creek and Little Jones Creek striking one Caltrans vehicle.

A Caltrans crew has been working the past couple of weeks in that area to construct a retaining wall to prevent slides from reaching the road.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Vojtesak said wind speeds peaked at 55 mph at 2 a.m. Thursday morning with sustained winds of 40 mph.

The gusts split a tree down its middle at the Del Norte County Courthouse, blew in a rolling garage door at the old Wild Feline Rescue building on Highway 101 and knocked down numerous other trees and power lines throughout the county.

Even the scoreboard at the Del Norte High School football field was pushed to the ground after wind gusts bent the metal I-beams supporting it.

Winds continued yesterday. blowing at 30 mph with gusts up to 41 mph.

The high winds are whipping up the ocean as well, causing 20-foot swells yesterday with 30-footers expected today.

Vojtesak said the weather should clear with showers, off and on, all day Saturday and clear skies Sunday afternoon.