Fierce storm batters coast

December 17, 2002 12:00 am
Bev Noll helps clean up water in a neighboring shop after high winds blew out the window in the door and damaged the roof, allowing heavy rains to pour in. Many homes and businesses suffered similar minor damages. (Stephen M. Corley/ The Daily Triplicate).
Bev Noll helps clean up water in a neighboring shop after high winds blew out the window in the door and damaged the roof, allowing heavy rains to pour in. Many homes and businesses suffered similar minor damages. (Stephen M. Corley/ The Daily Triplicate).

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Roofs were torn off and windows blown out when hurricane-force winds ripped through Del Norte County over the weekend.

Wind gusts greater than 60 mph hit Crescent City Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. Hundreds of households are still without power after the entire county was blacked out for more than eight hours from Sunday night to Monday morning.

"Northern California continues to be one of our hardest-hit areas," said Spokesperson Bekki Witt of Pacific Power. "The Del Norte substation was affected. The storm initiated it and the equipment didn't respond properly."

Witt said some 2,400 customers in northern California were still without power yesterday afternoon; approximately 2,000 in Yreka, 100 in Tule Lake and 300 in the Crescent City area.

Spokesperson Jan Mitchell said work crews have different time lines for the repairs.

"There are about 100 homes that are scattered about in isolated areas that all have separate problems," Mitchell said yesterday afternoon. "The biggest concentration is in the Klamath area. The work supervisor out there said he should have that area back up in a few hours."

Witt warned that the isolated areas may have to wait longer.

"Those people should plan to be without it until Wednesday," Witt said. "Hopefully we can get repairs done sooner but because of the extent of the damage and the terrain we think it may take this long."

All schools in the Del Norte County Unified School District were closed yesterday due to power outages and poor road conditions for bus drivers. Schools are scheduled to open today as normal, according to school officials.

Power was restored to the Smith River Post Office at 1:30 p.m. yesterday, and Bank of America in Crescent City brought its computer network back online at about the same time.

"There were about 100 branches that were affected and we were one of them," said Manager Karen Lyon. "I was happy just to come in this morning and find the power was on."

Witt said downed trees caused most of the problems for power crews. Chief John McFarland of the Crescent Fire Protection District said the fallen trees caused other headaches.

"There were some explosions and they were all related to power lines being down," McFarland said. "There were multiple alarms with trees downing lines, and trees falling on homes and streets.

"A couple of ladies walked right through some downed power lines after they were warned not to. We're really lucky nobody was electrocuted."

McFarland had some safety tips for people when dealing with problems from storm damage.

"Stay away from power lines, for one thing. And when the traffic lights go out, (motorists) need to remember to treat intersections as a being a four-way stop," said McFarland.

"On the positive side, it seems most people in rural areas react much better than they do in the cities. They're more used to this sort of thing and better prepared for it," McFarland said.

The U.S. Coast Guard was forced to respond when two kayakers on the Smith River became stranded on the North Fork Saturday night. A helicopter was dispatched from Humboldt Bay in 35- to 45-knot winds with a rescue swimmer on board. The boaters were airlifted to Crescent City Airport and returned to family, the Coast Guard reported.

County and city crews removed tree branches from roads and cleared storm drains yesterday, while residents and business owners mopped up from blown-out windows and roof damage.

Bev Noll of Rhyn Noll Surfboards in Crescent City said she may have to relocate her business while roof repairs are under way in her building.

"It's not insurmountable," said Noll. "We've been advertising, along with many other businesses, for people to do their Christmas shopping locally. This is what makes our lives easier – to do business in December and January."

Route 199 was closed near Idlewild Saturday night due to 1,000 cubic yards of slide that fell onto traffic lanes. Due to continued rain, motorists should check with Caltrans for the latest traffic conditions.

Elsewhere in the region, wind-blown heavy snow closed Interstate 80 through the Sierra Nevada between Sacramento and Reno, Nev.

At least six deaths have been blamed on the storm since the end of last week. Three of the fatalities were in northern California, two people were killed in their bed by a falling tree in Oregon and a snowboarder killed by an avalanche at a Nevada ski resort.

The National Weather Service posted flood warnings for some Northern California rivers. Yountville and Los Gatos got six inches of rain late Sunday and early Monday.

High surf warnings for waves up to 25 feet were in effect through Tuesday along the North Coast. High water temporarily closed U.S. 101 at the Marin-Sonoma county line north of San Francisco on Monday. The same highway was closed in Oregon late Sunday by a landslide south of Yachats; one lane was reopened Monday morning.

Wind gusted to 100 mph at the summit of Mount Diablo, east of San Francisco Bay. Gold Beach, Ore. had gusts up to 97 mph, according to the weather service.

The storm dumped up to four feet of snow at some points in the Sierra, and the National Weather Service was expecting up to three more feet of snow on Monday.

The Pacific storm was the first in a series, and rain is expected to continue for the next couple of weeks, with occasional breaks.

‘‘We're in a seriously unstable pattern through the first of the year,'' said National Weather Service forecaster Bob Benjamin.

Associated Press writer Anna Oberthur contributed to this report.