Gale force winds spread disarray in S.F.

San Francisco was thrashed by strong winds during the last two days as a winter storm made its way down the coast, causing road closures, power outages, transit delays and knocking down a number of trees, according to officials.

By Wednesday afternoon the storm was heading to the Southern California coast, leaving the Bay Area with sunny skies, although the strong winds persisted. Today’s forecast calls for sunny skies and much lighter winds at 15 to 25 miles per hour.

The storm was unusual in that it brought high winds for such a long time but only a little rain, National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Anderson said. San Francisco received only a half-inch of rain, he said.

Fifty-six trees were knocked down during the storm, according to Department of Public Works Deputy Director Mohammed Nuru. Crews would be working into the night Wednesday to clean up the tree debris. “I actually thought it would be worse, at least in terms of street trees,” Nuru said.

Fifty-mile-per-hour winds were recorded Wednesday morning at the San Francisco Zoo.

About 3,500 San Francisco Pacific Gas and Electric customers remained without power on Wednesday afternoon, but by the evening, 1,770 were left without power in the Excelsior, Portola, Visitacion Valley and Diamond Heights neighborhoods, according to PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno. Earlier in the day power was fully restored to households and businesses in the Sunset and North Beach neighborhoods.

“We’re seeing very high winds that are bringing down wires, blowing debris into power lines such as broken branches and in some cases, cars hitting utility poles,” Moreno said. “We’ve been restoring power to customers but then we have fresh outages as well.”

The Great Highway, between Sloat Boulevard and Lincoln Way, was shut down at 3 a.m. on Wednesday “because sand was blown over it and it was affecting the cars,” DPW spokesman Frank Lee said. The Great Highway was reopened about seven hours later.

Muni’s M-line was delayed after a tree fell at 10:32 a.m. blocking the track at Randolph and Byxbee streets, according to Muni spokeswoman Maggie Lynch. The closure of the intersection lasted into rush hour Wednesday evening. Bus shuttles were activated to carry inbound and outbound passengers from West Portal.

There were up to 30-minute delays Wednesday on Bay Area Rapid Transit after the high winds knocked off a cover board — a sheet of metal that covers the electric third rail — at about 8:30 a.m., temporarily closing down one of the system’s tracks, according to BART spokesman Linton Johnson.

Flights at the San Francisco International Airport were delayed up to two hours by the end of the day on Tuesday due to low ceilings and the heavy rain, according to SFO Deputy Manager Linda Perry. On Wednesday, however, the airport was no longer experiencing any weather-related delays, she said.

The National Weather Service issued a high surf warning late Wednesday afternoon, reporting 21-foot waves along the Sonoma County coast and 28-foot waves along the Monterey County coast. Waves were expected to diminish to about 15 feet by Thursday morning.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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