High winds batter southwestern US

2011-12-02 15:46

Los Angeles - Winds gusting up to 160km/h triggered power outages, felled trees and caused traffic chaos in California and blasted several neighboring states, meteorologists said on Friday.

The powerful gales were the "strongest easterly winds in the past several years," said the Weather Service, forecasting "widespread" damage.

More than 300 000 Californians were left without power, Los Angeles international airport was briefly closed and there was traffic gridlock as trees and debris blocked roads and traffic lights were out.

Winter storm, high wind or "red flag" wildfire risk warnings were in place in the neighboring states of Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

"Strong and potentially damaging easterly winds are impacting the southwestern US and are expected to continue until late on Friday," the NWS said in an online warning.

Los Angeles was particularly hard hit by the Santa Ana winds, a meteorological phenomenon which brings dry winds down from the high mountains east of the coastal areas.

More than 210 000 customers of Southern California Edison were without power, while the city's department of water and power said nearly 90 000 of its 1.4 million customers were without electricity.

City Hall in downtown Los Angeles - the centre of attention in recent days as police cleared out a two-month old anti-Wall Street protest camp - was also without power for some time, although it was later restored.