SCOTTS VALLEY - Gusts of up to 70 mph toppled trees and brought down power lines Thursday, knocking out power to more than 27,000 customers in Santa Cruz County and crushing at least three homes.
In Scotts Valley, hundreds of homes and businesses were without electricity beginning Wednesday afternoon and were not expected to have power until about noon Friday, said Pacific Gas & Electric spokesman Joe Molica. Other areas with widespread outages included Boulder Creek, Felton, Bonny Doon, Watsonville, Corralitos and Freedom.
"The vast majority of customers in Santa Cruz County should have power restored Friday. We're working as quickly as we can," Molica said.
The source of the outage in Scotts Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains centered on a "backbone" transmission line that was destroyed in a road-less, forested area near Castle Rock State Park, Molica said.
Three large trees fell on the line taking out the pole Wednesday afternoon. A new power pole had to be drilled into the ground, Molica said. A helicopter crew typically assists in rebuilding transmission lines in remote areas, but steady heavy wind gusts Thursday made it unsafe to fly, Molica said.
A Caterpillar was brought to the site Thursday, but utility operators said Thursday night that more trees down in the area delayed the fix.
"The wind has certainly hindered our ability to get the lines back on for folks," Molica said.
The National Weather Service reported 15 to 20 mph winds Thursday afternoon with stronger gusts at higher elevations.
East winds of 5 to 10 mph were expected Friday morning shifting to the northwest in the afternoon, according to the weather service.
"It's been a pretty crazy windstorm, said Keith Tydall, an emergency dispatcher for Scotts Valley Police.
The damage included a large tree that crushed the roof of a home on the 100 block of Baja Sol Drive in Scotts Valley and another tree that fell on a home on the 400 block of Lockwood Lane.
"It was pretty busy all day," said Scotts Valley firefighter Troy Crivello.
"We staffed up another engine and we had another utility vehicle to keep up with the call volume."
Firefighters said residents at the Baja Sol Drive home were downstairs when they heard the tree fall. Still, Crivello said no one was injured there or elsewhere during the calls he responded to Thursday.
A mobile home also was destroyed on Trailwood Way in Aptos, as well as many other vehicles and buildings, authorities said.
An outage near Green Valley Road left thousands without power on Thursday afternoon but was restored by nightfall.
Classes were canceled at Scotts Valley High School on Thursday and schools including Bonny Doon, Freedom, Boulder Creek and Pacific Elementary School in Davenport and Esperanza Middle School in Watsonville. Classes were expected to be canceled at Boulder Creek and Bonny Doon again Friday.
Victoria Granger-Jones, who sat at Surf City Coffee on La Madrona Drive in Scotts Valley on Thursday, said her daughter drove to Scotts Valley High School, only to learn it was closed for the day.
The coffeehouse was packed with people who had no power at home to make a hot beverage.
Gary Bloom, superintendent of Santa Cruz City Schools, said classes were held at all its schools - but the lights were off until about noon at Soquel High.
"On this campus we have enough classrooms with light through windows," Bloom said, and teachers made due.
Neither Dominican Hospital nor Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center was affected by the strong winds. Dominican's Director of Facilities Chris Lemar said an outage would trigger backup generators within 10 seconds with fuel to last several days.
On the roads, several trees fell and blocked traffic on northbound Highway 17 near Pasatiempo Drive and other areas.
California Highway Patrol officer Sarah Jackson said officers fielded more than 50 calls related to weather problems by 8:30 a.m. Thursday and more throughout the day. The CHP responded to 90 wind-related traffic problems Wednesday including a large oak tree that blocked Redwood Drive near Scotts Valley, Jackson said.
"It was just huge volume of calls," Jackson said.
Sentinel staff reporter Jondi Gumz contributed to this report.
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