Suggested Head: Storm's high winds knock out trees and power

Staff Writer

A strong winter storm packed with high winds and heavy rains will continue to pound the Central Coast today after knocking out power, toppling trees and closing at least one street Monday.

Gale-force winds hit the Central Coast Monday and are expected to continue through today, according to the National Weather Service, which issued an assortment of advisories warning of high surf, flash-flood and high winds continuing through today. Scattered thunderstorms also are possible today.

"Santa Maria had wind gusts of 33 knots, or 38 miles per hour, definitely gale-force winds (Monday)," said John McGee, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc.

Rainfall amounts through Wednesday will range from 2 and 6 inches along coastal and valley areas, while the mountains and foothills could see between 5 and 10 inches of rain. Up to 12 inches of rain could fall over south-facing slopes such as the Santa Ynez Range.

Santa Barbara County's South Coast will likely experience the highest rainfall totals at lower elevations with flooding of creeks and roadways possible, the NWS said.

During a 24-hour period that ended at 5 p.m. Monday, Santa Maria received 0.44-inch of rain, pushing the total since July 1 to 3.68 inches, close to normal for this point in the season. Santa Maria typically receives 14 inches of rain during a normal rainfall year.

Vehicles collided and residents lost electrical power Monday as the downpour hit the Central Coast. However, no major injuries were reported, according to Santa Maria police and California Highway Patrol. Cautious motorists slowed as the rain fell, officers said.

Mud and standing water on Blosser Road between Bunny and Taylor streets, which is being reconstructed, led to its closure at 2:15 p.m. Santa Maria Public Works crews placed detour signs directing drivers to Railroad Avenue and adjacent streets.

Two reports of trees toppling and smashing cars at 1043 W. Cook St. and 1030 W. Cook St. were made in Santa Maria, and another tree was reportedly blown over at the Santa Maria Country Club, said Jack Owen, battalion chief of the Santa Maria Fire Department.

Owen said the city received 20 calls from people complaining of trees or limbs down in the roadway, and sent crews to pick them up.

The storm took out power at various times for about 8,000 customers from Lompoc to Morro Bay, said Sharon Gavin, spokeswoman for Pacific Gas & Electric Company. As of 10:15 p.m. Monday, 323 customers from Santa Maria to Buellton were still waiting for power to be restored. An outage affecting 5,500 Nipomo customers Monday afternoon was fixed by 9 p.m., after an outage at 2:16 p.m.

No major highway problems or closures had been reported as of about 4:45 p.m. Monday, except for minor mudslides near Gaviota, said Colin Jones of Caltrans.

People worried about flooding can pick up sand -- but not sandbags -- at Suey Crossing and the north side of West Battles Road at A Street at all times. Sandbags can be purchased at local stores.

Staff writer Erin Carlyle can be reached at 739-2218 or by e-mail at ecarlyle@pulitzer.net.

Dec. 30, 2004

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