Friday, December 2, 2011

Winter Wonderland, Pasadena Style

"You're not going to work today," I heard my neighbor say when Boz and I stepped out of the house early yesterday morning.

Usually Boz and I are alone for the a.m. perimeter check, not because we're the earliest risers but because our neighbors are up and and gone by the time we get out there. But yesterday we found them in the middle of the street in their jammies with dogs, kids and coffee cups.

In case you haven't heard, we had a wind storm Wednesday night. Sirens wailed. Power lines went down. City workers haven't stopped clearing debris, restoring power and evacuating people from nonfunctioning facilities to functioning ones since nature's tantrum began.

Many streets in Pasadena lost trees. I don't know how other trees landed, but as it happens our street was conveniently blocked at each end and unless you lived beyond the carnage you were not driving out.

Here's a panorama John took of one of our roadblock trees. This giant cedar was planted, I believe, in 1924. You can click on the photo to get the full effect. We're still in a bit of shock; I know our shady little street will be very different now.

Yesterday was a remarkable day. Like a snow day in the Midwest it felt different, wild, celebratory. People were out in the streets all day, people I haven't talked to in ages, people saying hello. We picked clementines--how did they hang onto the tree when a giant cedar could not stand?

John, Boz and I walked in the evening. On the smell of all those wounded trees was a trace of the Wendigo's perfume.

From Ann Erdman, Pasadena's Public Information Officer

The city of Pasadena has made tremendous progress toward restoring the infrastructure in the wake of the severe windstorms that occurred Wednesday through Thursday.

Since the winds began, an unprecedented number of city staff and contractors have been working around the clock on 12-hour shifts to ensure the safety of the community, clearance of streets and restoration of utilities.

City crews have been working diligently to clear fallen trees and debris out of travel lanes on major thoroughfares along Pasadena’s 325 miles of streets. It could take weeks to remove all the debris from the public right of way.

The removal and clearing of trees that are not in the public right of way is the responsibility of private property owners.  Those who suffered damage to vehicles, homes or other property caused by fallen city trees or tree limbs should contact their private insurers for proper handling of claims.

City refuse service resumed today. Residents who would have had Thursday service will have their trash, yard waste and recycling picked up on Saturday.

Power has been restored to 95 percent of affected customers – all but 400 electric customers and 150 water customers who will be restored to service within 24 to 36 hours. The unique challenges of isolated outages are being handled on a customer-by-customer basis.

Everyone should stay clear of compromised, overhead electric, cable and telephone lines. Do not attempt to remove trees that are touching any utility line. A list of tree-care professionals with expertise in electrical safety and tree health is available under the FYI section at

To report fallen public trees, hazardous tree conditions and downed power lines, call (626) 564-0199 or (626) 564-0299.

Pasadena residents and others who want to sign up for local alerts can go to or

More comprehensive information on status and progress will be available at


dive said...

Woah! Glad you guys are okay. That was some storm.
What does Boz make of the downed trees? I'm amazed they're not already full of kids; they would be around here.

Dina said...

Wow, I'm glad you could see the day as "wild, celebratory."
Such a good excuse for all the neighbors to stay home and be neighborly.
What luck that the tree didn't hit anyone or anything. That little orderly chunk of ground with the roots is amazing.
Scary stuff

Dina said...

Oh dear Petrea, I'm just now reading your updates and new comments in the previous post. Oi, the wind storm was very very bad.

Book Dragon said...

The wind a pretty loud here but I didn't see downed trees and we kept our power. Very glad we took out our was between the houses and growing under the block wall and our house!

First thought: wow, that was a BIG tree

Second thought: It didn't hit anything? Double wow!

Shell Sherree said...

Oh, I'm so relieved you're all safe ~ and how terribly sad to lose those magnificent trees! And how sweet that your little clementines hung on. Life's a funny thing.

USelaine said...

What a close call! I've been catching up on LA news stories, and it looks like it ain't over yet. So glad you are all well.

Chrissy Brand said...

What a storm it must have been and what a sad loss too- I hope everyone affected is ok and normality returns soonest.

Chrissy at Manchester: a photo a day at Mancunian Wave

ben wideman said...

Thinking of you all, and wishing we weren't so far away. I hope the clean up process goes well.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

Pasadena area has always been one of my faves.. The trees are Pasadena's calling card.... I've had a lesson on trees and got rid of about 12 of them.. They were small compared to what u posted but I've seen the destruction even little ones can do- the roots are a killer to foundations, sprinkler systems, etc..

Michael Coppess said...

The day had a surreal feel to it with so many trees fallen, power lines down, and streets blocked. I suppose you'd expect limbs to fall in strong winds, but I was surprised to see dozens of big trees laying down with roots up. I'm not looking forward to the cleanup.

Laurie said...

I'm devastated by the loss of all those historic trees. It's hard to wrap my head around the new landscape on so many streets where I came to love so many different old trees. Several of my favorite towering pines around town completely uprooted. I was so overjoyed we didn't lose our heritage oak and camphors. Just our fence, which now looks like someone beat the slats w a sledgehammer.

And still no power in South Pas. Do you have power?

Really thankful it wasn't worse like some of the home losses in Temple City.

Steven said...

I think I can hear the chainsaws from here. Glad you are all safe. I hate seeing healty trees on the ground.

Vanda said...

Other places have snow days. I feel sorry for poor tree though.

I heard Griffith park is closed till they clean up the damage done by the wind.

Petrea Burchard said...

It was celebratory on our street because we knew we'd been lucky. We mourn the loss of the trees, but as close as many of us came to death and destruction it didn't come. Nature went crazy around us and we survived to pick clementines.

We really were lucky; no power loss on our street and minor damage compared to other areas of Pasadena, not to mention Temple City.

The children were all over everything all day. John took lots of pictures of them. My Canon is in the shop at the moment so I didn't do as well. I have to get the camera today somehow.

Thank you for all your good wishes. We are fine. We'll get out today to help the neighbors in the clean-up. It'll be work and fun, I imagine.

Trish said...

just amazing! I keep looking at photos of places I once knew, landscape I once knew and just gone!

I'm amazed that panorama John took---the tree didn't hit anything else or take anything else with it. The light standard next to it, the houses or cars or people. But it does have that salt-water taffy pull look to it doesn't it?

Am glad you're ok. We've been keeping y'all in our thoughts and prayers. Our weather here in NorCal has been horrid, but not nearly as bad.

The cool thing is, everyone in the Basin will get cleaned up in the next month, just in time to show off for the parade. Community pulling together---pretty amazing!

Bellis said...

Enjoy a second day of being tree'd in, Petrea, and please don't start craving human flesh.

Doing the perimeter check (great expression!) with Abby yesterday, I spoke to neighbors I've never seen in 10 years of living here.

How sad to lose those beautiful big trees. 450 gone in Pasadena so far, and that may be just the ones lining the roads. I'm not sure I can live in my house any more with the huge ash tree shading the deck and giving us privacy gone. The winds reached 90 mph, and that's a lot to expect any tree with leaves on to withstand.

Poor Temple City's much worse, which is why my tree people, based in El Monte, may not get to us till next week. They said they had far more serious things to deal with than our two trapped cars, such as people trapped in their houses. A couple of guys with chain saws were raking it in yesterday, and would have cleared our tree also, but we were worried they weren't insured.

Petrea Burchard said...

Things will look different without those trees. I just read something about how we hate change, but how we crave it. You never know what it will bring. I hope everyone's okay in Temple City. It looks like Steve hasn't been able to post (whether due to electrical outage or 24/7 work at the newspaper) but keep your eyes here for his update:

Susan Campisi said...

Wow. What a sight! Amazing more people weren't hurt. I heard a tree came down on Christmas tree lane. Altadena is still without power. I walked Tommy in the light of the moon last night. It was so quiet and lovely but it will be nice to have a refrigerator and lights again. said...

how did they hang onto the tree when a giant cedar couldn't stand?

Coniferous trees frequently have flat roots - they get bowled in a strong breeze.

Visited the UK a couple of years after the Great Storm of 1987 (15m trees down) - they'd gone through roads with chainsaws and cut a path, leaving roots on one side of the road and tips on the other side and just removed the trunks.
The woods still smelled like pine room deodorant.
I believe they're still dealing with the aftermath

CafePasadena said...

I take it you didn't go to work yesterday but called in sick. I like your close-up & faraway views of the old tree of your street.

Petrea Burchard said...

Susan, the Altadena Hiker and I joked today that knowing the county, Altadena will be left 'til last just for spite.

Hi JB. Pasadena's crews are out in force today and they'll continue through the weekend. They're good--they have to be, to get ready for the Rose Parade on January 2nd. They'll do it, too. But I imagine we'll remember this storm for a long time.

Cafe, I called in trapped.

alex said...

although there are downed trees everywhere in the SGV, that is still an impressive and striking image. hang in there Petrea!

sonia a. mascaro said...

What a heavy and scary wind storm, Petrea! I am impressed with these big and tall trees fallen in the middle of the street. I am glad you, John and Boz are okay. I hope that nobody was injured.
I saw a reportage about that big storm on AltadenaPatch too.

Petrea Burchard said...

The crews came to release us today, Alex. I got out and saw a little more of the destruction. One of the biggest trees down is on Mountain Avenue at Hill. Huge, huge tree. From where I stood I couldn't tell if any property was destroyed but it came very close to a house. Inches! Amazing.

From what I understand, Sonia, there were only minor injuries. We have been lucky considering the magnitude of this storm.

Katie said...

Such a bummer to read about the destruction of property and of course all of those lovely old trees. Really unbelievable that there weren't more injuries. These photos really tell quite a story. Sounds like everyone is really pulling together to help clean up.

Ms M said...

Wow! So glad none of you were hurt! Reminds me of the aftermath of a tornado in the Midwest. It's sad so many trees were blown down; maybe there can be an Arbor Day planting next spring?

Petrea Burchard said...

We have a lot more trees where those came from, but yes, we'll keep planting!

I took a walk in Bungalow Heaven with a friend late today. Some major destruction over there. I hope everyone's got insurance.

Speedway said...

So sad about the trees, but most people are safe, I gather, more inconvenienced than anything. Is it possible to save any of the trees by pulling them upright? We had an ice storm some while back and quite a few big conifers spent the next few years with cables holding them until they could re-establish their roots.

Also, there are organizations which "rescue" downed trees for the wood for use by cabinet-makers. Here is one website that may be of help:

pasadenapio said...

Thanks, Petrea!

Latino Heritage said...

Mercy, the texture of the tree is glorious! I was so impressed with the speed with which they worked on the trees on your street.
Per Dina's comment - they were oy gevalt winds.

Dina said...

Yes, oy gevalt winds, even better said! Especially since gevalt means powerful.

Kate said...

The loss of those trees is a terrible tragedy for the neighborhood and environment. Some homeowners certainly were lucky when the trees missed their houses. I've seen similar destruction from high winds in our own city, but this episode in Pasadena is definitely remarkable.

Petrea Burchard said...

Oy gevalt winds, yes indeed.

Thank you, Ann. I hope you've been able to get some sleep. I posted last night's press release on today's post and haven't had a chance to check email, but if there are more I'll post them.

Speedway, I don't know about saving the trees. The ones that fell across our street have already been cut apart. They had to be; we were trapped in here with live wires dangling and no way for emergency vehicles to get in. Other trees may be savable. Pasadena employs a full-time arborist and there are others on the job right now, assessing the damage.

Also, city workers told me yesterday that they're hauling downed trees into the Arroyo near the Rose Bowl. The assumption we made was that they will be mulching at least the branches. (A lot of branches broke off.)

I wonder if people came and took the wood how the city would feel about that. It would be less wood to deal with and perhaps a boon for local crafts people, a win/win. But maybe not easy to deal with fairly. Perhaps the PIO can tell us what the rules are about this, if she's following the conversation this morning.

I am impressed with the workers, too. We made a lot of calls, especially after all those wires started sparking and we knew homes were in danger with no way for vehicles to get in. I don't know if the calls helped but people we talked to at the city--and most of them were answering the phones!--were very helpful. I especially thank Ms. Vannia De La Cuba, the field rep in Victor Gordo's office. My husband got her on the phone and even though she's not our field rep she was so responsive and helpful.

Irina said...

Wow. I have not heard. Sorry about the tree, but glad it did not damage anything or anybody.

Petrea Burchard said...

We've been very fortunate, Irina.