By Carol Heyen
Inland Empire – A National Weather Service wind advisory came to fruition Saturday as strong winds pummeled the Inland Empire.
Winds gusting over 40 miles per hour sent dirt and tumbleweeds flying across the 71 freeway and into Chino Hills’ yards. Drivers swerved to avoid the damaging weeds as they flew by.
Houses were shaking from the winds and hundreds of trees were blown over as residents hunkered down to escape the gusts.
Residents took to Facebook to complain about the wild winds. Many people lost brand-new drone and helicopter Christmas gifts as they were caught up in the gusts. Garbage cans and Christmas decorations were found blown down streets, and wooden fences were blown over.
In Eastvale, a backyard palapa was snapped off its pole and landed upside down in the family’s Jacuzzi, and a trampoline that had been staked down flew up and over a brick wall.
Cleaning up the mess was no easy task. Chino Hills’ resident Steven A. Velasquez Sr. likened clean-up to “bailing water out of a sinking boat.”
City clean-up crews were seen in Chino Hills on Sunday, helping to dispose of the tumbleweeds from residents’ front yards and streets.
Some blame El Niño for the windy and freezing conditions that swept across the southland over the Christmas holiday.
NASA reports that the 2015 El Niño, currently unfolding in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, is the strongest since 1997-98. According to officials, the worst is yet to come with weather events likely to peak in early 2016.
The strong winds serve as a reminder to be prepared. The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) say that high winds can be just as dangerous as heavy rain or snow. They remind residents to remove or secure items that are typically outside.
Bring patio furniture, garden tools, garbage cans, and toys inside. Trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building. Anchor objects that are unsafe to bring inside, like gas grills or propane tanks.