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Santa Ana Wind Warnings Still In Effect For Parts Of Southern California

Santa Ana Wind

ROBERT JABLON   12/ 5/11 08:19 PM ET   AP

PASADENA, Calif. — Southern Californians were struggling Monday to clean up millions of dollars in damage and restore power to thousands of people still left in the dark nearly a week after one of the worst windstorms in years ripped through the region.

Meanwhile, forecasters said strong winds could return, but without nearly the punch that downed trees and utility poles by the thousands, damaged scores of homes and knocked out power to some 350,000 customers.

About 21,000 Southern California Edison customers remained without electricity Monday, five days after winds blasting to nearly 100 mph thrashed foothill communities along the San Gabriel Mountains just east of Los Angeles.

More than 500 repair personnel were working around the clock and hoped to have most power restored by Monday night, spokesman David Song said.

"We had thousands of trees down," Song said. "A lot of them have gone onto our power lines so that's hampered our basic recovery efforts."

Fallen trees also blocked roads, he said, making it hard for repair crews to get to downed lines.

Meanwhile, many people shivered in cold, darkened homes. Some checked into hotels, while restaurants that still had power were packed during the worst outages. Many people said they had to dump rotten food from refrigerators.

"It was horrible," said AnnMarie Trudeau, whose condominium in Monrovia, one of the hardest hit areas, was without power for four days. "I ended up staying at my parents' because I'm wimpy."

At one point, power was out to 75 percent of Temple City, and its downtown district resembled a ghost town with shuttered businesses and darkened stoplights.

Edison opened emergency centers in some of the worst-hit areas where residents could pick up flashlights, ice and bottled water.

The city of Arcadia, another hard-hit area, said Monday it would keep its community center open until midnight for people who need to charge cellphones or computers or who simply want to get out of the cold weather.

As the cleanup continued, the National Weather Service issued red flag warnings for extreme fire danger caused by dry, gusty winds.

Northeasterly winds could bring blasts as high as 60 mph through Tuesday in mountain passes, canyons and coastal areas.

Wind-prone areas of California's Central Coast region were expected to see a rapid drop in temperatures overnight, leading to a hard freeze and record lows.

The National Weather Service has issued hard freeze warnings to inland portions of the Central Coast, including Santa Ynez Valley and Ojai Valley.

A preliminary estimate put damage and cleanup costs from the winds last week at $3.8 million in areas serviced by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, and the effort might take weeks to complete, spokesman Bob Spencer said.

In Utah, which also suffered damage, state officials warned of scams after getting reports of unlicensed contractors trying to take advantage of people needing repairs.

In Pasadena, northeast of downtown Los Angeles, 325 miles of streets were affected by downed tree limbs, fallen power poles and other debris. Damage and cleanup costs had not been determined but will run into the millions of dollars, said Lisa Derderian, the city's emergency management coordinator.

Some people have taken cleanup into their own hands, dumping debris in city parks or parking lots, so the city was working to set up authorized dumping sites, Derderian said.

The city's utility company reported several hundred people were still without electricity.

Officials also received reports that some residents were opening boxes at the base of street lights and stringing wire from them to their homes to deliver electricity.

Derderian cautioned that the practice is illegal and dangerous. She also warned people to avoid posting Facebook or Twitter comments that gave their address and said they were out of their homes because of the blackouts. That could be an invitation to thieves, she said.

However, Derderian said there had been no reports of crime spiking in hard-hit communities.

Instead, she said, people had been providing coolers to neighbors and cleaning up yards of elderly people.

"The only good to come out of a disaster is that people really come out and help each other," Derderian said.


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Filed by Anna Almendrala  |