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Powerful Santa Ana winds sweep Southern California

A palm tree swaying in the wind in La Mesa, California, Jan. 26, 2023.
KPBS Staff
A palm tree swaying in the wind in La Mesa, California, Jan. 26, 2023.

Fierce Santa Ana winds battered the San Diego area today, making driving treacherous for big rigs and other large vehicles while toppling numerous trees, one of which fell onto a person in Balboa Park.

Through the morning and afternoon, the blustery conditions generated gusts recorded at up to 93 mph in the mountains, 87 mph across the inland valleys, 48 mph in coastal communities and 44 mph in the deserts, according to the National Weather Service.

"There have been numerous reports of overturned high-profile vehicles through the mountain-pass highways, as well as uprooted trees," the NWS reported at midday, advising caution for motorists, particularly on Interstate 8 in the East County highlands.


About 8 a.m., a roughly 85-foot-tall eucalyptus tree in Balboa Park was blown over by the stiff winds and landed on a woman, city officials reported. Paramedics took her to a hospital for treatment of non-life- threatening injuries.

By early afternoon, authorities were clearing people out of that city park and others due to the clear dangers posed by the extreme Santa Ana conditions.

"High winds are knocking down trees and unsecured structures across the region," Mayor Todd Gloria stated in an online message. "Dozens of trees (mostly eucalyptus) have fallen in Balboa Park, Chollas Lake and Presidio Park. Out of caution, we're restricting access to these parks."

Shortly after 11:30 a.m., two roughly 100-foot-tall trees toppled at a townhouse complex in the 10200 block of Caminito Covewood in Scripps Ranch, hitting three residences and crushing the same number of vehicles, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

The non-injury mishap also left an occupant of one of the impacted homes trapped for about 15 minutes, until emergency crews could free the person, the city agency reported.


In the eastern reaches of the county, roadway wind hazards forced closures of Interstate 8 in Campo as well as in Alpine, where several big rigs overturned.

The gusty conditions were expected to "drop off rather quickly this evening and tonight," making way for a breezy and somewhat warmer Friday, according to the weather service.