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Agencies scramble to keep up

John HartFirefighter David Silva (left) and Lt. Tucker Eslinger of the Ophir Hill Fire Department on Monday check out a downed tree lying on powerlines as a result of Sunday's storm.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Knockdown winds had numerous agencies dragging out trees that crashed onto power lines, roads and – in some precarious situations – houses Monday in Nevada County.

Take Coleman Cassel’s house at Pleasant and Neal streets on Grass Valley. About 2:45 a.m., a pine tree crashed into his roof as a branch punctured his second floor before missing his boys by less than a foot as they slept on a bottom bunk.

“It basically felt like somebody shaking us out of the house. It felt like a major earthquake,” Cassel said as he awaited a return call from his insurance agent.



His sons were OK, but his house suffered a gaping hole that invited substantial water damage, and a broken water main caused by the uprooted tree.

Similar stories kept firefighters, tree fallers and others bouncing from incident to incident.




“This wind,” Grass Valley Fire Chief Hank Weston said Monday. “I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve been here since ’89.”

Starting at 1:22 a.m., the Emergency Command Center took about 50 calls from county residents, said Nancy Picker, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection dispatcher.

Some callers sought quicker phone access to workers at Pacific Gas & Electric Co., but Picker couldn’t help. “There’s only so many people out there working,” she said.

Firefighters also played a waiting game in some cases after rushing to find downed power lines.

Nevada County Consolidated Fire District responded to 30-40 calls starting Sunday night, according to Battalion Chief Vern Canon.

“We really haven’t had severe wind for quite awhile, so the weaker trees are being taken out,” he said.

The damage took Tim Murphy, owner of Tim the Tree Man, aback.

“There’s not the damage we had two years ago, with all that snow. This is a little more spread out, but the incidents seem more spread out than with a heavy snowstorm,” he said.

He and his crew went to eight homes. On Kate Hayes Street in Grass Valley, a tree crashed through a garage, causing damage to an antique car.

Though too late for some, Murphy offered advice on how to detect rotting trees that might seem healthy. The next time the wind blows, he said, check the ground around the tree for heaving or uplifting.

County Department of Transportation and Sanitation workers had been removing weaker trees weeks before the storm.

“This certainly sped up the process,” department director Michael Hill-Weld said. He estimated the cleanup of trees and branches will take about a month.

Wind gusts of 76 mph were recorded at the county airport Sunday night, according to airport service worker Sherm Hanley.

By mid-morning, he said, “People can fly in if they want to, but we haven’t had any customers, and I don’t expect any.”

No serious crashes on western Nevada County’s roadways were reported, said California Highway Patrol Officer George Kirbyson. Like other businesses and agencies in the Glenbrook Basin, the CHP office lost its power and closed early because the backup generator couldn’t keep all the computers running.

Kirbyson tried using a computer printer to make a “closed” sign.

“It’s not happening,” he said. “I’m going to have to go to a felt- tip pen.”

SCHOOL CLOSINGS:

Almost half of western Nevada County1s schools<31 of 67, according to KNCO1s Web site<were closed Monday after strong storm winds caused power outages in many areas.

Listen to radio station KNCO-AM 830 or KVMR-89.5 FM to find out which, if any, schools are closed today, said Bonnie Smart, support services secretary for the Nevada County superintendent of schools.

To check school closures on KNCO1s Web site, go to http://www.knco.com and click on 3school closures² on the left-hand side of the page.


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