Temple City declared disaster area; schools closed again today

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/01/2011 11:32:37 PM PST

More than a dozen power poles were knocked over Thursday in the 9900 block of Live Oak Avenue in Temple City. (Watchara Phomicinda / Staff Photographer)

Photo gallery:Winds damage gas station, streets, apartments
Photo gallery:Reader photos of the Santa Ana wind event

TEMPLE CITY – Winds gusting up to 70 mph snapped more than 30 power poles, toppled 150 trees and left 75 percent of the residents of this bedroom community without power and many homes without water service Thursday, city officials said.

About 30 homes sustained significant damage from downed branches and uprooted trees, many in the southern part of the city, officials reported.

The City Council met in an emergency session Thursday afternoon while City Hall was running on generator power to declare a local state of emergency.

“This is the first stop of any type of federal reimbursement in a disaster,” said Temple City’s emergency services consultant, Roger Mason.

City officials said Edison crews were assessing the damage to poles and lines but did not expect to have power restored until Sunday or Monday, said Brian Haworth, assistant to the city manager. Power remained out to more than 7,500 residences affecting about 28,000 residents, city officials estimated.

“We were one of the communities in the foothills hardest hit according to county fire,” Haworth said.

Los Angeles County Fire sent five additional engines and four more fire crews to Temple City to help with widespread damage.

Lines formed at the Ralphs supermarket on Las Tunas Drive, which was without power but opened a small food stand on the sidewalk. Residents lined up for batteries, water, ice, bread, eggs and cookies.

Most of the businesses along busy Las Tunas Drive were not open due to lack of power, including the Chase bank branch. “We’re closed. Go to San Gabriel,” shouted an employees to a customer pulling up the the ATM. Wells Fargo was accepting deposits at a table in front of the branch, said Linda Payne, former CEO/president of the Temple City Chamber of Commerce and current owner of Embellish Salon in town.

“I’ve lived here for 60 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Payne, who was going house-to-house to tell her customers to stay home.

Temple City Unified School District closed all its schools Thursday. Schools will remain closed today. They hope to re-open on Monday, said school board member Matt Smith.

All City Hall activities are canceled until Monday. Recreation programs at Live Oak Park Community Center are canceled until further notice, Haworth said. The neighborhood around Live Oak Park experienced severe damage to trees and power lines.

As of Thursday night, major thoroughfares remained closed to through traffic due to dangling power lines and burned out electrical transformers. Closures remained along Live Oak Avenue from Rowland Avenue to Cloverly Avenue; Temple City Boulevard south of Live Oak Avenue and Hermosa Avenue between Encinita and Rosemead, city officials reported.

Water service was shut off by California-American Water Company, city officials reported. Cal-Am serves the area from Live Oak Avenue to Lower Azusa Road and from Glickman Road to Temple City Boulevard. Low water pressure was reported in parts of Temple City served by Sunny Slope Water Co., north of Longden Avenue and south of Loma Avenue. City officials did not know when water or water pressure would be restored.

Residents of the Palms Manor Apartments on Live Oak Avenue watched in horror early Thursday morning from their windows as the wooden utility poles cracked in half and metal transformers blew.

“That lit up my whole bedroom. I said, I hope to God it won’t start a fire. It was frightening,” said Angie Portillo.

“It was like a domino effect. It was like chu-chu-chu and the sparks were like big firecrackers,” said Sylvia Harlen, her neighbor.

Wind gusts uprooted trees and bent back palm trees. Tree limbs fell onto homes and cars. Some of the largest live oak trees in this Tree City USA lost limbs. At Temple City Park, a large deodar cedar was being carved up for firewood by city crews Thursday afternoon. The holiday lights blew down from the traditional city Christmas tree.

An elm tree fell across the driveway of Joseph Martinez’s condominium complex on Temple City Boulevard, blocking the cars from exiting.

“I said to my boss I can’t get to work today. I’m trapped like a rat,” said Martinez, who works at Gourmet Foods in Rancho Dominguez. His neighbor, also unable to get his car out, said he was going to do his part to help out.

“I’m going to volunteer and help clean up. This is our town,” said Thanh Vien.

On Camellia Avenue, where giant tree limbs and leaves obscured the roadway, Gayle Theilacker pointed to a cardboard nativity display on her neighbor’s lawn. “Look, the Joseph and Mary were a little bit tipped but the baby Jesus is fine,” she said with a smile.

steve.scauzillo

626-962-8811 ext. 2237

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