Destructive winds howl across IWV

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Destructive winds howl across IWVLast weekend’s weather left no doubt that winter is upon us. The California Department of Transportation reported road closures on Highways 58, 14 and 395 because of wind and snow conditions, and the California Highway Patrol was kept busy handing accidents caused by weather.

Here in Ridgecrest, residents who had not foresightedly set a faucet or two on “drip” woke Monday morning to find (if they were lucky) that their pipes were frozen, allowing them no hot water until mid morning. Plumbers were kept busy repairing broken pipes at both residences and businesses.

According to Officer Robert Kloss in CHP’s Mojave office, two semi-trucks overturned on Highway 395 in the Ridgecrest area. “Both accidents were directly attributable to the wind. They literally blew over,” said Kloss.

“Then there were two big rigs near Mojave on 58 that the same thing happened to. Highway 58 was closed through Teha-chapi due to ice and snow.

“We didn’t get any reports filed of accidents there, but there were quite a few cars spinning out and getting stuck.

“We were so busy, there was one rollover we couldn’t respond to out on Highway 202, so the Bear Valley office handled it. They’re about six or eight miles outside Tehachapi. The wind was still causing problems Monday, blowing ice and snow across the roads there, even though the skies were clear.”

Ridgecrest resident Lindsay Johnson was out in her van Saturday morning, assigned to photograph an overturned truck. “The van was shaking really bad in the wind. I was worried and parked, thinking about turning to go back when the window on the rear driver’s side blew out! I didn’t know if I was going to roll with the van or not, but it stayed upright.” On the return trip, she sighted the second overturned big rig. “Some good Samaritans had pulled over to help. It must have just happened. The victim was trapped inside. I was there before the emergency responders showed up.”

At the Inyokern Airport, winds caused still more damage. “We had a pretty bad sandstorm,” said Scott Seymour, airport general manager. “The winds must have hit 70 to 80 miles per hour. A glider trailer flipped over and hit another glider trailer. A lot of aircraft windscreens got pitted by the sand, as well as the paint. The windows on the west side of the terminal building were sandblasted, also.

“It’s not over. We also had a pipe freeze in one of the buildings Tuesday morning. The building has about an inch of standing water in it. It caused about $30,000 in water damage,” said Seymour. “That’s why we have insurance.”

“It was all because of a very artic system from Northern Canada that came our way and brought us all that cold, cold weather,” said Meteorologist Tamera Walters at the China Lake Meteorological Station.

“I’ve lived here since 1996 and I’ve never seen it like this. We’ve tied some records that were set back in the 60s. This is unusually cold for this time of year — we don’t usually get this kind of weather until January.”

On Saturday, temperatures recorded at China Lake were a high of 47 degrees and a low of 27 degrees, with winds peaking at 47 miles per hour at about 11 a.m. With the wind chill factor, that meant an apparent temperature of 39 degrees.

“The winds gusted at 34 to 40 miles per hour, starting at about 10 a.m., until about 5 p.m. when the gusts were down to about 28 miles per hour,” said Walters. “About 6 p.m., it calmed down some, with intermittent gusts in the 20s to about 8 p.m., when the wind died down.

“During the day, I was out with the Boy Scouts helping park cars for Santa’s Art Shop. The wind was really kicking up, lots of sand in the air,” she said.

“Sunday was much better, with a high of 51 and a low of 18 degrees. The wind was only 11 miles per hour by late afternoon, and the temperature was 24 degrees, so the wind chill was about 14 degrees, but the wind wasn’t such a factor.”

She said the National Weather Service had predicted snow, but it didn’t happen. Temperatures and wind speeds can vary a small amount between the base and Ridgecrest.

“The artic system is now moving out, so it will warm up a bit for the rest of the week,” said Walters.

According to CalTrans Public Information Officer Florene Trainor, on Saturday, Highway 58 was closed at 4:12 p.m. in both directions because of winds, snow and accidents, from Tower Line Road to Exit 165 in Mojave.

The highway was reopened at 12:49 a.m. “The CHP escorted vehicles back and forth until the road could be opened up completely in both directions,” said Trainor.

Highway 14 was closed at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, and the passes were closed as well. State Route 120 east, from Lee Vining to Benton, was closed because of snow. State Route 108 to Monitor Pass is now closed for the season. State Route 108 at Sonora Junction is also closed for the winter.

Story First Published: 2013-12-11