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Gusty winds knock down trees; cause traffic headaches across San Diego County

Officials have closed several parks fearing downed trees could wreak further havoc across as gusty winds sweep San Diego County.

SAN DIEGO — Fierce Santa Ana winds battered the San Diego area Thursday, 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.

Thursday morning traffic along I-8 Eastbound past Alpine was backed up for miles. California Highway Patrol said officers were turning semi trucks and motorcycles around because the wind was too dangerous. 

Several semi-trucks were pulled over off the side of the road.

"Once you start getting blown around, it's constant," said Brenda Kimpling. She and her husband have been driving a semi for decades. They're on their way back home to Minnesota.

The National Weather Service expects winds to reach 30-40 miles per hour in mountain and inland valley areas, with gusts possibly reaching 75 miles per hour. 

Meanwhile, coastal areas will also feel the impact of the Santa Ana winds with 15-25 mile per hour offshore winds and gusts expected as high as 45 miles per hour.

The high winds impacted traffic in East County as two semi-trucks overturned just east of Pine Valley.

In response, CalTrans prohibits campers and semis from Alpine east to Imperial County. 

Downed Trees

On Thursday morning, a 30-year-old woman suffered non-life-threatening injuries after an 80-foot-tall Eucalyptus tree fell on her in Balboa Park. She was taken to the hospital. 

Power Outages

San Diego Gas and Electric reported around 8,000 customers were experiencing power outages due to gusty winds sweeping the county. 

An outage map provided by SDG&E showed several areas, including Mount Laguna, North park, University Heights, and Japutal Valley, suffering greatly from power outages, with hundreds of people in each community without power.

You can click here to check if your area is impacted.

This is a developing story. Check back here for updates.

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