- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 6 (UPI) — Santa Ana winds gusting above 60 mph in many parts of Southern California on Monday knocked out power and toppled dozens of trees, including a towering eucalyptus that killed a woman walking her dog in San Diego's historic Old Town area.

The National Weather Service warned late in the day that the winter winds howling off the deserts — sometimes nicknamed the "Devil Winds" — would continue to blow through the night and into Tuesday.

"Travel will be extremely dangerous," the National Weather Service intoned in a wind warning posted for much of inland Southern California. "Downed trees and power lines have been reported today as well as traffic signals and signs that have been blown down. Visibility will also be near zero in some areas due to blowing dust and sand."

The winds were strong enough to cause a mature eucalyptus tree estimated at nearly 100 feet tall to fall over Monday morning in the Old Town area of San Diego, a popular tourist destination. Several visitors were able to scramble clear of the falling tree; however, one woman was trapped under the branches and died a short time later at a nearby hospital.

The winds had been blamed for the death of a motorist in neighboring Riverside County whose windshield was shattered Sunday night by wind-blown debris.

Southern California Edison said around 250,000 customers in its sprawling service area were without power at some point Sunday night and Monday.

The winds also raised the fire danger in the region. Fire forced evacuations near Norco while a blaze in the Malibu canyons area grew from around 100 acres to 600 acres in about an hour Monday afternoon.

"It started out as a small spot fire caused by a downed power line that has resulted in a 600-acre beast," a spokesman said.

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