Packin’ a wallop | TheUnion.com
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Packin’ a wallop

An oak branch partially crushed George and Willie Pells' 1963 Ford Galaxy and a 1972 Chevy pickup in Grass Valley.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

No official wind reading was available, because power to the wind meter was knocked out, but Thursday night’s wind was Wizard-of-Oz strong.

As Nevada County residents poked their heads outside their homes Friday morning, they found widespread damage from the first violent storm of the season:

— An aluminum carport roof blew off and hit a home three doors away.



— A tree fell and crushed a pair of classic cars in Grass Valley.

— A branch punched through the ceiling of a woman’s home in Nevada City.




— A RV was crushed by a huge oak tree on Lower Banner Mountain.

— A chain reaction from a downed power line sparked a fire at a house on Lime Kiln Road.

— Students were sent home from two schools that lost power.

The Emergency Command Center near the Nevada County Airport received 112 calls from midnight Wednesday through midnight Thursday, reported Darren Davidson, a CDF dispatcher. The number of calls dropped when the winds stopped, he said.

Grass Valley received 2.54 inches of rain from Thursday through Friday morning, according to the reading at the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Freeman Lane.

And more rainy weather is predicted for today, with cloudy skies and a chance of precipitation for Sunday.

Most residents would welcome a breather after the raging winds of the last two days. At Forest Springs Mobile Home Park at about 10 p.m. Wednesday, Joyce Lee thought that an earthquake had struck.

“My house just shook,” Lee said. “I thought I was being killed.”

When she looked outside, she saw parts of a 40-foot aluminum carport hanging and banging in the tree on one side of her house, in her backyard, on the other side of her house and on her neighbor’s roof. The cover came from three houses away and across the street.

Around the same time, a significant part of an oak tree partially crushed George and Willie Pells’ two classic vehicles, a black 1963 Ford Galaxy and a 1972 Chevy pickup in front of their house in Grass Valley.

“The wind was so loud I was in bed, holding onto my kitty, that I didn’t hear the tree split,” said Willie. “At least it missed the house.”

A Uren Street resident who declined to be named said she was in another room when a tree branch crashed through her bedroom ceiling around 10:30 p.m. The tree snapped in two places and sent branches through her ceiling in five different spots, she said.

“The fire department came first,” she said. Then her arborist, Jerome Myers, worked until 1 a.m. trying to remove branches that poked down several feet into her house.

Around midnight a huge oak fell, squashing Marian Thompson’s RV and woodshed on Lower Banner Mountain.

“We finally fell asleep after we lost our power,” Thompson said. She woke up to see that the tree had fallen across the back of her garage. “It’s a big one,” she said.

The wind meter at the Nevada County Airport gave readings of 55 mph Tuesday night, said Sherm Hanley, an airport service worker.

But for Wednesday night’s burst, there aren’t any readings because they were wiped out when the power failed, said Rob Kopp, the airport’s operations supervisor.

However, knowledgeable folks at the 3,100-foot-elevation airport estimated the wind speed at about 65 mph. Planes that were chained down on the tarmac were spun around 180 degrees, Kopp said.

And Hanley said that a year or two ago, airport workers recorded a gust of more than 60 mph; a gust of more than 70 mph was noted in 1955.

Driving wind and rain set off a chain reaction late Thursday that destroyed a Lime Kiln Road house. Branches fell on a power line next to a modular home at 14313 Lime Kiln Road, near Bald Hill Road, and the power line fell on the home, sparking a fire.

A passerby notified the property owner, who lived in an adjacent house, and the fire was reported at 11:13 p.m., said Higgins Area Fire Capt. Jerry Good.

Two bedrooms were spared, but the home was still a total loss, estimated at $75,000. Good declined to name the tenant, but said he wasn’t home when the fire started.

As of Friday afternoon, some 4,000 households in western Nevada County were still without power, said Lisa Randle, spokeswoman for Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. Fifty PG&E workers were called in from other areas to help, she said, but some customers may not have power restored until Sunday.

Also without power for at least part of the day Friday were Silver Springs High School on McCourtney Road and Lyman Gilmore School off West Main Street in Grass Valley.

Students were sent home out of precaution a little after 8 a.m. when PG&E could not definitely say when power would be restored, said the Grass Valley School District Superintendent Jon Byerrum.

Without power, the classrooms at Lyman Gilmore are very dark, and “you can’t run a school with 700 students in the dark,” Byerrum said.

Students who were already on the bus en route to Lyman Gilmore were picked up by their parents and were home by 10 a.m., he said.

– Grace Karpa, Doug Mattson and Kerana Todorov contributed to this story.


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