Wednesday Jan 20 2010
Storm downs power lines, winds gust to 48 mph
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
Tree branch scares driver, falling timber shakes Auburn home
Michael Zachary was talking to his children on the phone Wednesday morning when he heard a loud crash that made him think there was an earthquake in Auburn. Newcastle resident Beth Rowett was driving on Highway 193 when she came upon a woman trapped inside her vehicle by a large tree branch. Heavy rain and strong winds gusting up to 48 mph in some areas of Auburn made roadways — and even some homes — hazardous areas. Emergency crews and county road workers fielded a constant stream of calls for downed power lines and felled trees in roadways and on top of homes. “It’s definitely been busy,” said Officer David Martinez with the California Highway Patrol. Snow possible at 2,500 feet Forecaster Angus Barkhuss said the wet winter storm pounding the valley and foothills was “pretty significant” as compared to other storms that have hit the region. On Wednesday, Barkhuss said a weather station in Auburn recorded winds gusting up to 48 mph during the third and strongest of recent storms to drop almost constant rainfall on the area this week. Barkhuss, who works for the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said that it appeared as though snow would fall as low as 2,500 feet overnight Wednesday. “We’ve already had a report of snow in the 3,000-foot elevation area this afternoon,” Barkhuss said Wednesday. Between 5 p.m. Monday and 5 p.m. Tuesday, about .6 inches of rain fell in Auburn, according to accuweather.com. To date, the area has accumulated about 12.63 inches of rain, which is still less than the normal season-to-date rainfall of 17.19 inches, according to accuweather.com. The last of the series of storms is expected to blow through on Thursday with more rain and strong winds. A weaker system will arrive on Friday and forecasters predict a break in the weather over the weekend. However, more rain is expected to fall starting Sunday night. About 4,800 lose power in Placer Wind and rain also knocked out power to about 4,800 Placer County residents as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Brian Swanson, Pacific Gas & Electric Company spokesman. Swanson said that number included about 1,300 customers in Auburn and an additional 2,400 in Loomis. About 100 residents in Alta, 200 in Newcastle and 300 in Penryn also lost electricity. The remaining outages were in Rocklin, Granite Bay and Lincoln. “We have all available resources out in the field restoring power where they can,” Swanson said. “We won’t have a good idea of when full restoration can be expected until after the storm system passes and we complete and assessment of the damage.” Close call on roads At about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday a woman driving on Highway 193 near Newcastle was shocked into a stop when a tree branch fell on top of her car and crashed through her windshield. Motorist Beth Rowett said she was one of the first few people on the scene and drove up on the accident before emergency responders arrived. “I saw a woman trapped under a tree branch and it was through her windshield,” Rowett said. “She was crying and having a hard time breathing.” Rowett said two passerbys had already stopped and were helping the woman. Officer David Martinez, California Highway Patrol spokesman, said the tree branch appeared to “fall out of nowhere.” “She didn’t do anything wrong whatsoever,” Martinez said. “It was a freak accident that couldn’t have been helped.” Martinez said the driver, 50-year-old Linda Gilmore of Newcastle, was transported via ambulance to Sutter Roseville Medical Center for minor injuries that included lacerations to her head. Martinez advised drivers to keep a careful eye on the roads. “If anything be aware of the debris in the roadways because of the high winds,” Martinez said. “That way you don’t panic and take an evasive action when it’s not necessary.” Rowett said seeing the accident aftermath made her drive even more cautiously to her job in Cool. “I was a little nervous about the 50 mph winds,” Rowett said. “I was also nervous about my own inexperienced 16-year-old daughter being on the road with this kind of weather.” ‘It felt like an earthquake’ A loud crash and shaking floorboards jolted Michael Zachary up as he ran to seek cover on the other side of the Auburn home he rents. “I was talking to my children when I just heard a huge noise hit the side of the house,” Zachary said. “Then we all scrambled to (the other) side.” Zachary and roommate Ray Fowler were baffled as to what the noise was until they peered outside a window of their house. “We looked outside and saw that the tree fell and the front porch was missing,” Zachary said. The duo saw a large tree that normally shaded their home lying parallel to the house. Zachary said after surveying the damage, he noticed a few holes in the laundry room but no other serious damage. Fowler said that with recent news of an earthquake in Haiti, they momentarily wondered if one had hit Auburn. “It felt like an earthquake,” Fowler said. “The whole ground was shaking. It hit pretty hard.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.