Storm causes problems across Central Valley

The fast-moving storm which hit the Valley on Friday took out power lines and shut off electricity in many areas.
February 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The big storm that moved through California on Friday caused several problems across the Central Valley.

Around 2 p.m., a wave of showers knocked over power poles at Peach and North avenues, causing several industrial complexes to go dark, including an elementary school. Extra PG&E crews worked the streets all day, responding to a variety of power problems.

"We have seen a number of pole fires, which is just a phenomenon that happens when you haven't had a lot of rain. Dust gathers on the pole, light rain starts to fall, mud forms, and that mud conducts electricity from the wire down to the wooden pole," said PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles.

At the height of the power outages, 4,500 people didn't have electricity. For several hours, 900 customers in Reedley were without power. The biggest outages were in Fresno near Belmont and Weber avenues; the wet weather shut down the lights for 1,600 customers there. Hector Rangel had just poured his cup of coffee around 4 a.m. when his power went out.

"I heard this bang, so I came out running and I see some of the sparkles outside and some of the people were out there, and so we just stayed there until the fire trucks came in," said Rangel.

After the early morning showers, before the afternoon rain, a maintenance worker rushed to replace an underground pipe. His complex lost power for four hours, and he didn't want water issues too.

"Right now actually just beat the rain. It's gonna be pretty bad, so you know I gotta get it done before it rains -- make sure everybody has water," said Jimmy Colmenero.

PG&E workers say on average, around 200 customers around Fresno were without power sporadically through the day. Upgraded power systems helped isolate certain areas, so when areas lost power, they were able to get it restored quicker.

Large tree falls over, damages Porterville home

A large tree toppled over and crushed part of a house in Porterville on Friday. The massive tree came crashing down and landed in the backyard around 1 p.m.

Porterville firefighters responded to the scene shortly after. Repair crews say there are now two holes in the roof of the home.

Alexis Paul was delivering some cakes to a nearby church, when she pulled out her phone to get video of the windblown trees.

"I just happened to turn this way, had the camera on the house while the tree was falling. I just got really lucky," said Paul. "I just heard a weird noise, and I kind of looked above the camera to see what was going on."

That's when she realized she was witnessing frightening and potentially deadly storm-related damage.

"I was trying to pound on the door, ring the doorbell, nobody was answering for a while," said Paul. "And then finally, I think, the lady of the house came out, and she said everybody was OK. She had a couple of kids in there with her."

Crews spent late Friday evening sealing off and repairing damaged plumbing, and patching up the holes punched in the roof. The homeowners didn't want to talk about the damage. Neighbors say the family plans to remain in the home while it's being repaired.

Reedley palm tree burns after lighting strike

A decades-old palm tree in Reedley burned after it was struck by lightning on Friday.

"Yeah it was a huge crack, loud crash," said Michele Roush. "And it was like the whole sky was lit up. Just white, everything was white."

The fire threatened to spread across the neighborhood. Fortunately, firefighters put it out before the damage extended beyond the tree itself.

In another neighborhood, the rain and wind knocked down a eucalyptus tree right into a power line. Domingo Gonzalez and his neighbors suddenly lost electricity.

"I hope they come fix it soon because we need to cook," said Gonzalez.

PG&E crews worked to restore electricity, but Gonzalez prepared for a night without power.

In Exeter, an uprooted tree crashed into the roof of a family's home. It was damage hard-working crews couldn't fix.

Wet weather may put a damper on weekend events

With more rain and even the possibility of thunderstorms expected on Saturday, participants planning to take part in downtown Fresno's Chinese New Year Parade are making some changes to their costumes and floats. Many are concerned the weather will have an impact on attendance as well.

Students at Acel Fresno Charter School on Tulare and H streets are determined not to let the storm rain on their parade.

"It is a good thing because we really need it and all the farmers and agricultural people, but maybe the timing wasn't great," said senior Victoria Alvidrez.

The group was planning to ride down F Street on an elaborate float they were working on this week as part of Saturday's Chinese New Year celebration.

"We had a big trailer almost 20 feet long, and we had these podiums we were building out of wood, and they were going to demonstrate all the different things we do because we're a community-based school," said Art & Activities teacher Joanie Hathaway.

She said they were forced to make some last-minute modifications on account of the wet weather.

"We've adapted, we've put away all of the stuff that would get ruined in the rain," she added.

Instead, students made signs out of waterproof materials and will ride in the back of an appropriately painted pickup truck along with their umbrellas, galoshes and mascot Bubbles the shark.

"She'll be right in her element," joked Hathaway.

Friday's downpour did put a damper on a four-day softball tournament at Edison High School.

"I was out here about 6:30 this morning to look at the fields and at that time it was still downpour, and when you're dealing with transportation from other schools you have to make a decision by no later than 7 in the morning," said Women's Varsity Softball Coach Miranda Gonzalez.

Despite her efforts to repel some of the water with tarps and quick-dry sand around the bases, Gonzalez said she had no choice but to cancel day three of competitive play. She's now growing increasingly concerned about this weekend as another storm system rolls through.

"I'm glued to my phone, I have the Doppler on my phone, and I'm constantly looking to see where the green is at. Is it going to stop? When is there going to be a break? So pretty much going to be monitoring the weather all night long," said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said 25 teams are playing in the fundraising tournament at Edison High and are travelling from as far away as Mendota and Chowchilla. She's hoping to get in as many games as possible.

Meantime, crews in downtown Fresno are gearing up to close off a portion of F Street.

If you're planning to head out to Saturday's Festival and parade or any another event in the Valley, slow down and allow plenty of time to travel on slick roads.

The Chinese New Year celebration in downtown Fresno will go on Saturday rain or shine. It runs from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on F Street between Kern and Tulare. The parade starts at noon.


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