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Santa Ana Winds Strand Thousands as Airport, Roads Closed

January 13, 1989

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Thousands of truckers and air travelers were stranded and up to 100,000 residents lost power as Santa Ana winds tore through Southern California at up to 100 mph, officials said.

The winds closed Ontario International Airport for 10 hours Thursday, shredded one of the world’s largest blimps and damaged an airliner there and toppled at least a dozen tractor-trailer rigs in Ontario, said California Highway Patrol Sgt. Tim Joy.

″It’s kind of an intense feeling,″ said trucker Bill Derringer, who sat out the winds at an Ontario truck stop. ″You become kind of a devout Catholic or whatever you are real quick.″

The Santa Anas - also called ″devil winds″ - are spun off by high pressure inland and pick up speed as they move from Southern California’s deserts through mountain passes and roar down on adjacent communities.

Winds subsided by nightfall Thursday as the high pressure system that caused the howling gales moved to the east. The National Weather Service predicted winds would gust up to 35 mph this morning and be gone by tonight.

As many as 100,000 Southern California Edison customers went without power at times late Wednesday and Thursday as winds felled lines.

A fire started when hurricane-force winds downed a power line charred about 160 acres of brush near Ramona, about 25 miles northeast of San Diego, before it was contained Thursday. No injuries or damage were reported.

A whirlwind of dust obscured Ontario, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, where about 2,000 campers and truckers swilled coffee and traded stories at truck stops.

″I don’t think anybody moved for 12 to 14 hours,″ said Bob Berenyi, manager of Truck Stops of America.

In nearby Rancho Cucamonga, winds tore part of the roof off the San Bernardino County sheriff’s station, said Deputy Denise Garland. Outside, deputies donned goggles to direct traffic.

A half-dozen trucks huddled under an overpass near Glen Avon to avoid winds that toppled two rigs just a few yards away. No serious injuries were reported.

At least 45 flights were diverted from Ontario International Airport or canceled, stranding thousands of travelers.

″People are just sitting there numb. Some of the business travelers are pretty upset, but the majority are resigned to the fact they aren’t going anywhere right away,″ said airport Manager Michael DiGirolamo.

About all that was left intact of a 194-foot-long Airships Inc. blimp, used by Pepsi Cola Co. to promote its Slice brand, was the nose cone attached at an anchor pole and the gondola, said Capt. Jerry Davis, airport security chief.

The blimp, valued at $6 million, is one of the Starship series, the largest blimps in the world. It was to have flown over the Super Bowl in Miami, Fla. Jan. 22, but now will require six weeks of repair.

A United Parcel Service cargo bin blew into a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737, putting a six-inch gash in the fuselage near the cockpit, said Ron Kochevar, assistant airport manager.

Update hourly