SAN DIEGO - Intense Santa Ana winds buffeted the San Diego area amid summer-like heat Wednesday, downing utility poles, toppling trees and exacerbating vegetation fires.
The powerful air currents out of the east, which exceeded 100 mph in at least one instance, were strongest in the morning and early afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. They were expected to weaken overnight and then pick up again somewhat Thursday, the agency reported.
The stiff winds sent dust, debris and unsecured furniture flying, and downed trees in numerous areas, including the Mission Bay onramp to northbound Interstate 5, Torrey Pines Road at Coast Walk in La Jolla – where a light standard simultaneously came down onto traffic lanes – and the 4300 block of Jutland Drive. The latter mishap sent a pedestrian to a hospital with apparently minor impact injuries, authorities said.
The strong winds made it difficult for airplanes to land at Lindbergh Field. As the planes approached the runway, many were at an angle and did not straighten up until the last second. Some decided it was too dangerous and pulled up for another lap around.
Windsurfer Jack Ross says the weather inspired him to get out the board for the first time in two years.
"I was actually watching the news today and I saw pictures of Fiesta Island with the sand blowing across the beach and I went, 'I got to go wind surfing,'" he said.
Kevin Mattson of Santee wanted to go fishing but had no luck. He says he has never seen white caps on Lake Cuyamaca.
"Definitely something to see though, it's a sight," said Mattson.
Elden Carl of La Mesa made it up state Route 79 on two wheels.
"Worst winds I've even ridden in," said Carl.
Others were not so lucky. A 10News crew saw a camping trailer on its side as a tow truck was getting ready to pull it away.
A familiar sight on eastbound Interstate 8 is a sign to Sunrise Highway, but now it is cut in half.
On eastbound I-8 at Willow Road, the California Highway Patrol was turning high-profile vehicles around.
10News meteorologist Craig Herrera was out filming the winds in the East County and says he had a hard time standing up straight. At one point, he had to prop his camera in the back of his car because the wind kept knocking it over.
Watch Craig's video below:
The blustery conditions also dangerously stoked several fires amid temperatures in the 90s – one in the bed of the San Diego River near Carlton Oaks Country Club in Santee, and the other in palm trees near SeaWorld.
The winds also contributed to power outages that left thousands of homes and businesses without electricity at various times over the morning and afternoon, mostly in East County and North County locales.
The weather service recorded some powerful gusts around the county, including ones that reached 101 mph at Sill Hill, northwest of Cuyamaca Peak; 87 mph in Buckman Springs; 75 mph in Campo and Santa Ysabel; and 69 along a stretch of the Sunrise Highway. Along the coast, winds howled at up to nearly 50 mph in areas.