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Fierce devastation

John HartThe Nevada City Lions' taco booth on Treat Street at the Nevada County Fairgrounds was demolished by this large pine tree during the storm.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

In many places across Western Nevada County, the weekend’s storm played out like a Hollywood disaster.

There were downed power lines and ripped tree trunks, their branches crushing everything from Nevada County Fair booths to mobile home rooftops. The damage was compounded by rains that at times became icy pellets over the course of the day.

Monday marked the third sleepless day for Sandy Woods, deputy manager of the Nevada County Fair. Mother Nature did plenty of damage over the weekend to the place many call “the world’s most beautiful fairgrounds.”



From the Grass Valley Lions taco booth on Treat Street, crushed under the weight of a eight-decade-old pine, to the cracks in the walls of the Grass Valley Senior Center, the damage at the fairgrounds seemed almost surreal.

“We’ve had a tree come down once or twice, but nothing ever like this,” Woods said, peering at Gate 5 of the fairgrounds, twisted by the near-gale-force winds over the weekend. Yellow caution tape wound around the hunk of mangled metal.




Amazingly, a pine in front of the Music in the Mountains wine booth toppled away from the wooden structure. Its deck, however, was destroyed by the weight of the tree’s branches, creating a gaping crater in the structure that Woods said had been renovated just last year.

Woods and senior maintenance man Stan Isadore pointed to buckled steel roof beams and broken dishes inside the building.

Woods then drove to the maintenance shed. A toppled tree destroyed part of the roof Saturday, the force of the impact twisting a metal door at the rear of the building. Tree branches poked through the fiberglass ceiling.

“I knew we were going to lose trees. I just didn’t know where they were going to land.”

Two pickups inside the shed, many tools and the forklift used to pry the metal door open Monday were spared.

“This building is beyond repair,” Isadore said.

Felled trees smashed through skylights at the Senior Center, and the women’s restroom flooded Monday from the heavy rains.

Woods said the fairgrounds would be closed indefinitely until a proper damage assessment could be made.

If there was a silver lining, it was that no one was hurt. “We need to focus on that,” Woods said. “We’re going to rebuild, we’re going to rebound.”

There were myriad instances where people narrowly missed injury, too.

For Ruth and Glen Erdmann, it was a very rude awakening when the top of a large pine came crashing through their bedroom roof about 1: 25 a.m., with a branch coming to rest right between the sleeping couple.

“It was a horrible noise when it came down,” Mrs. Erdmann said from her modular home at the Mountaineer Mobile Home Park, just off Highway 49 a few miles outside Grass Valley. The Erdmanns weren’t hurt, but “just shook up” by the incident.

A 30-foot branch fell and damaged part of the roof on Vicki Albright’s home on Nevada City’s Main Street, jarring her awake at 3:30 a.m. Monday. “I thought the windows were going to blow open,” she said .

On Reward Street, Ellen Davis woke in time to see the second of two trees land, this one in her back yard. The first one took down power lines and blocked her driveway. Davis, considered herself lucky, saying, “If I could get out of my driveway, I’d go buy a lottery ticket.”

Joe Grande wasn’t so fortunate. Upon his arrival at the cabinet shop he owns near the Nevada County Airport, Grande saw $150,000 worth of cabinetry swimming in several inches of water. The damaged cabinets were to be installed today in a multimillion-dollar Banner Mountain home.

A ditch designed to curtail runoff into the businesses behind the airport clogged, flooding Grande Wood Designs.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Grande said as vacuums sucked up and spat out gallons of murky rainwater.

Even with heaters running at full throttle to dry the cabinets, vanities and bookshelves, Grande didn’t hold out much hope that his handiwork could be saved.

Grande couldn’t even use the phone for much of the day to tell his clients the bad news.

“I can’t sell this as a new product,” he said, looking at his unfinished cabinets. “You know, I came in this morning, and the problem just kept getting worse.”

The storm also knocked out street lights in many places.

Doing business in the Glenbrook Basin was practically impossible much of the day as video stores, banks, gas stations, coffee shops and car dealerships remained without power until the afternoon.

A sign at the Ralph’s supermarket told the tale: “Sorry, we are temporarily closed due to no power. We hope to see you soon!”

The note was signed with an optimistic happy face.


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