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A devastating and scary night in the ‘City of Trees’

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

For a city that loves its trees, January 21, 2022 was truly a night to remember. No neighborhood was spared as hours of sustained wind punctuated by severe gusts toppled trees, damaged homes and downed power lines.

The gusts began at sundown but the truly terrifying wind kicked in around 11 p.m. and continued into the early morning hours. By daybreak all was still, and the sad inventory of the night’s fury came to full light.

The giant coastal live oak in Memorial Park under which the city holds its Veterans Day observance is gone. So too, is one of the last remaining eucalyptus on College Avenue planted by the founders of Claremont.

A home in the 100 Block of E. 11th Street was damaged when a giant pine tree across the street toppled. As of Saturday morning, up to 1,300 homes were without power and the traffic signals on Foothill Boulevard were not working.

A large eucalyptus on Forbes Avenue fell on three vehicles, while three more eucalyptus on Forbes lost major branches, one of which blocked the COURIER reporter’s driveway. Nearly every large tree at Jaeger Park fell including two coastal live oaks. Driving around Claremont it seemed every street sustained some damage.

Sofia Arndt Cordova, 11, and Sara Arndt were surveying the damage at Jaeger Park which they have visited regularly for years.

“It’s so sad all of these trees,” Arndt said. “This is our park.”

Sofia commented that she heard the storm was coming after hearing a wind warning while playing Pokemon GO.

Fallen trees that blocked small side streets were taped off and left lying on the pavement while authorities attended to the major roads. During previous wind storms the city made quick work of clearing all streets, so the fact that some trees were left for later was a true testament to this storm’s power.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for the area with winds 20 to 40 miles per hour and gusts as high as 65. Saturday morning, the weather service reported wind gusts of 72 mph in Rancho Cucamonga, 70 mph in Upland and 70 in San Antonio Heights. The strongest winds were 83 mph at Toro Peak, the highest point in the Santa Rosa Mountains and 82 mph at Fremont Canyon east of North Tustin.

“On the evening of January 21, 2022, the city experienced a severe wind storm that did significant damage to trees, power lines, and structures,” the city posted on its website. “City crews are prioritizing calls to address immediate safety hazards. Clean up will be ongoing over the next few days.”

No injuries have been reported, only property damage, according to Public Information Officer Bevin Handel.

“We have trees down in our parks, trees down on College, Foothill, Indian Hill and up in the Claremont Club neighborhood. That’s not to mention the many smaller trees down and limbs down. Staff and West Coast Arborist have been working since about 8 p.m. last night,” Handel said.

City Manager Adam Pirrie signed a declaration of emergency so the city can apply for clean up funding from the state, and the building inspector is out checking homes that sustained structural damage.

With so many fallen trees all over town it fell upon the community to help neighbors clear yards and even remove trees. On Butler Court, off of Armstrong Drive in north Claremont, a massive pine fell, uprooting the sidewalk, completely blocking the street and marooning about a dozen homes.

Seeing the predicament his neighbors faced, King Street resident Brad Jamison brought his chainsaw and a can of fuel to see if he could help clear the road. Even though his saw was about half the diameter of the tree, he soon hatched a plan and went to work.

“I saw the tree down and I knew it would take the city sometime to get to it so I thought I would help them out,” Jamison said.

On Radcliffe Drive, Michael Reis was helping remove a tree that fell on the home of Julie and Brett Strauss. The home did not appear to have sustained damage but it was blocking access to the driveway.

“It happened in the middle of the night,” Julie Strauss said. “We came home [last night] there was just a small branch down, and then I woke up at six and went to go to the grocery store and it was down.”

As the two men cut limbs from the tree, a steady stream of neighbors came by many expressing shock and sadness at the number of lost trees.

“It was intense,” Strauss said “We lost part of our back patio cover as well. It was a little scary last night.”

The city will provide roll-off bins for tree debris disposal at Padua, June Vail, La Puerta, Griffith, Wheeler, Blaisdell, Cahuilla and Chaparral parks.

To report an immediate safety hazard, please call the police dispatch at 909-399 – 5411.

There were a number of Claremont homes without power Saturday morning including a large outage in the south part of town. On the COURIER’s social media sites people reported the power went out Berkeley around 10:30 and also on Bonita. There were numerous reports of transformers exploding.

Trees were reported down included a huge oak on Radcliffe, and several eucalyptus on Foothill. Arrow between Mountain and Towne was closed at sunrise.

 

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