San Jose

PG&E Scrambles as Storm Downs Trees, Sparks Power Outages

Interstate Highway 880 has reopened to traffic after downed power lines on the highway blocked all lanes near Bascom Avenue in San Jose for two hours on Friday morning, 511 transit officials said.

By 11:40 a.m., power was fully restored at Mineta San Jose International Airport after an outage affected the entire airport for almost two hours , according to airport officials.

Powerful gusts took down a palm tree, which ripped through a house on Eleventh Street in San Jose. The tree had been hollowed out by bees before the storm hit, but fortunately no one was hurt when it fell.

"That tree had been unstable ... and the wind was so strong today it finally gave out," said Lydia Tena of San Jose.

In Santa Clara, a tree crashed down on South Park Lane just outside Michael Brown's townhome. 

"I'm very happy it fell to the street because my bedroom is right there and my partner was still in bed when it fell," he said. "So it could have been a disastrous situation, but luckily it fell the correct way and landed in the street where it did." 

Missing Attachment A powerful storm hit the Bay Area and the rest of California with the first in a new series of rainstorms moving across the northern half of the state while the south awaited a rains that forecasters said could be the strongest in years if not decades, Scott Budman reports.

In Morgan Hill, when trees started toppling like dominoes on Del Monte Avenue, they landed on telephone and power lines, killing power in a neighborhood, downtown shops and Britton Middle School. 

Emergency crews were glad the battered power poles only led to a power outage.

"We had sparks coming from the transformers and they did catch one of the roofs on fire," said Sgt. Carson Thomas with the Morgan Hill Police Department. 

Fire crews put out the flames quickly, and PG&E workers turned off the area's gas and electricity. Some drooping lines were left as is as PG&E rushed to bring in crews from other service areas to offer additional support in the South Bay and Central Coast.

Parents who came to fetch their children from the darkened school said the outage was an inconvenience, but the cause was frightening.

"Well it's kind of scary," said Cindy Gonzalez. "I've never really seen something like this before, especially with all this wind. It's pretty freaky."

It was the same scene in Capitola when a massive eucalyptus crashed down on Park Avenue, blocking traffic. In Soquel, another tree snapped power lines, striking a house and crunching a pickup truck.

"The horn was blaring so we came out to this chaotic scene," said Mike Tighe.

Missing Attachment A powerful storm hit the Bay Area and the rest of California with the first in a new series of rainstorms moving across the northern half of the state while the south awaited a rains that forecasters said could be the strongest in years if not decades, Robert Handa reports.

Heavy winds and falling tree limbs has downed numerous power poles in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties on Friday, leaving tens of thousands of PG&E customers without power, according to PG&E officials.

By Friday evening, 17,514 people across the Bay Area were still in the dark. Of them, 12,322 live in the South Bay, 3,914 in the East Bay, 1,255 in the North Bay, 19 in the Peninsula and four in San Francisco.

Residents who come across downed lines or power poles should stay away and call 911 immediately.

Meanwhile, the Anderson Reservoir raged, half a foot away from 100 percent capacity. The high water level turned the Anderson dam into something of a spectacle, and drew people who live nearby.

"We're actually reminiscing, we were out here 26 or 28 years ago when the spillway first went over,” said Greg Lugo of Morgan Hill. “We came out here, it looked like Niagara Falls."

Santa Clara Valley Water District officials have earned that the reservoir could flood under the pressure of a string of storms expected to wallop the Bay Area. They are keeping a close watch on the dam. 

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