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WINDS WHIP UP MESS OF TROUBLE HURRICANE-FORCE GUSTS CUT OFF POWER, TOPPLE TREES, CLOSE I-5.

Byline: BRAD A. GREENBERG Staff Writer

SHERMAN OAKS -- Outside Dan and Gyl Barton's home, the wind was briefly still Thursday morning, but evidence of its overnight carnage was dramatic.

Hurricane-strength gusts had torqued a 50-foot tree that for half a century stood sentry over the front yard -- until dozens of thick roots snapped and an SUV-size patch of earth gave way.

The large fir crashed on the Bartons' roof as the couple watched a movie. Dan Barton thought a plane had hit a nearby house.

He and his wife walked into the backyard and saw the top of the pine overhanging the pool. Then they noticed the damage that had been done to her dressing room: broken ceiling, snapped beam, insulation spewed over the furniture.

``That's the silent witness,'' he said Thursday, placing on the kitchen table a quartz clock with its hands broken at 9:37, the time the tree fell the night before in the 14700 block of Weddington Street.

Then his phone rang. It was Allstate. He had been speaking to his insurer all morning trying to get the tree removed and his home repaired.

It will take a crane, but first he has to get bids. Once the tree is gone, he will be able to assess the damage.

The Bartons weren't the only ones inconvenienced by winds that tore through the region Wednesday night and early Thursday at up to 80mph. Trees were toppled throughout the San Fernando Valley, blocking roads and breaking power lines.

About 30,000 people lost power across the city, including in Encino, Granada Hills, Mission Hills, North Hills, Sherman Oaks and Van Nuys -- some for more than 12 hours. In San Fernando, a falling tree dragged a power line onto the roof of an Assyrian Christian church, setting fire to the attic.

Firefighters closed Ventura Boulevard at Noble Avenue for an hour because a building sign was ``hanging precariously,'' and they were worried it was about to set sail. And the California Highway Patrol closed an icy stretch of Interstate5 north of Castaic from midnight until late morning.

There were no reported injuries in Los Angeles, city Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said.

Forecasters anticipate persistent winds of 25to 40mph through this afternoon, with gusts reaching 50mph. A red flag fire warning is in effect until 4p.m.

``For the San Fernando Valley, the worst is yet to come,'' said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service.

After residents of North Hills lost power about midnight, the temperature in Wili Reyes' house dropped to 49degrees. The 40-year-old mother frantically called the Department of Water and Power.

``I have a 9-month-old baby. His lips are blue. I can't keep piling blankets on top. I'm on Medi-Cal and Medicare -- where am I supposed to go?'' she recalled saying.

The DWP had 300 employees working to restore power Thursday, but the winds were too wicked for the 80 electrical crews to keep pace. Whenever they repaired a line, it seemed another would snap under the force of a toppling tree.

``We are not hearing about anything that has become that dire that people are going to go days without power,'' department spokeswoman Carol Tucker said. ``Once the wind dies down, we expect most of these problems to be corrected within about 12 hours.''

brad.greenberg(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3634

Who to call

Downed power lines can be reported at (800) DIAL-DWP.

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- color) Golfers try to play through all the downed trees at Encino Golf Course on Thursday. Strong winds caused the mess.

(2 -- color) A smashed BMW sits as evidence of massive winds that tore through the Southland on Wednesday night, toppling a number of trees.

Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News

(3 -- color) Dan and Gyl Barton navigate past a broken tree limb in front of their Sherman Oaks house Thursday, after high winds toppled their 50-foot fir.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 29, 2006
Words:665
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