Fierce winds whip Lodi, bring down trees and kick up dust

Winds were so strong Monday, they knocked over a tree on the 100 block of North Church Street, which fell on the sidewalk and covered an automobile parked near the Lodi Stadium 12 cinemas.

Wind gusts as strong as 45 mph kicked up dust and caused tree branches — and in some cases entire trees — to fall across Lodi on Monday, which in turn caused two large power outages and a handful of smaller service calls.

“The first big wind storm of the season always gives us a run for our money,” Lodi Electric Utility Director Jeff Berkheimer said.

Lodi Electric received its first report of a power outage just after 8 a.m., Berkheimer said, in the area bounded by Chestnut Street, Sacramento Street, Kettleman Lane and Church Street.

Some 283 customers were without power, he said, but crews had it restored within two hours.

A second outage was reported at about 12:30 p.m. in the area bounded by Tokay Street, Church Street, Kettleman Lane and Pleasant Avenue.

Berkheimer said 137 customers were affected, and crews restored power in about 40 minutes.

He said both outages were caused by branches blown off trees from the high winds.

“In both instances, there were a couple branches that were kind of high, but were not touching the lines,” Berkheimer said. “So when they broke, they fell into the wires. During the second outage our troubleshooters were able to clear the branches themselves, but we had to call a tree service to remove branches because it was just so big.”

Lodi Public Works director Charles Swimley said crews responded to four downed trees that fell in the public right of way due to the high winds. Two trees were on private property, and two were city trees, he said.

Swimley and Berkheimer both said crews from their respective departments were on hand throughout the night to respond to additional trees or branches that might have fallen, as well as to restore power again if needed.

This was the second time in 2021 that high winds caused branches to fall and collide with power lines. In January, downed branches along North Sacramento Road caused a two-hour outage that affected 9,000 customers.

Over the weekend, the U.S. National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the entire San Joaquin Valley, beginning Monday morning and remaining in effect until 11 p.m. that night.

The advisory warned of northwest winds as strong as 35 miles an hour accompanied by gusts as high as 50 miles an hour.

Not only did the high winds cause tree branches to fall, but massive clouds of dust were kicked up throughout the region, in the unincorporated areas of the county as well as the greenbelt between Lodi and Stockton.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Control District issued its own warning in conjunction with the NWS on Monday, cautioning that the wind storms could stir up blowing dust, leading to unhealthy air quality.

On Monday, the air in Lodi was deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups — people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children and teens — due to the high level of dust in the air, according to AirNow.gov, run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its partners. The website tracks pollution up to 10 microns in size — particles small enough to be inhaled.

When levels of dust or smoke in the air are unhealthy, it’s time to take precautions.

“Try and stay inside, if at all possible,” said Alan Reppert, senior meteorologist with the private forecasting firm AccuWeather.

Heather Heinks, spokeswoman for the Valley Air District, agreed.

“Adjust your activities for a couple of days. If you can reduce or avoid outdoor activities for a couple of days, please do so,” she said.

Both said wearing a mask outdoors could help to filter out some of the larger particles of pollution, though the type of mask matters.

A properly fitted N95 mask is an acceptable option if you must spend time outside, Heinks said. But staying indoors is the best option.

While the worst of the wind was expected to die down on Monday evening, continued gusts today may kick up additional dust, and it could take some time for Monday’s hazy air to settle back down.

“Expect some dustiness and haze (today), too,” Heinks said. “By Wednesday, we should be looking a lot better, I hope.”

The drought is part of the reason for the large amounts of dust kicked up by the wind on Monday, Heinks said.

“The lack of precipitation in this region has led to significantly dry land,” she said.

It’s also been quite some time since the Lodi area saw such strong winds, which played a role in the hazy air, Reppert said.

The wind is expected to calm down on Wednesday, and stay settled through the early part of next week, he said.

That doesn’t mean Lodi is completely in the clear. With fires burning throughout the state, it’s possible smoke could settle back into the Central Valley as the winds die down.

The Valley Air District will be working with the NWS on Wednesday morning to determine if the air quality alert needs to be extended, Heinks said.

To monitor air quality and pollution levels in the area, visit www.airnow.gov or download the “EPA AirNow” app.

For more information, call the Valley Air District at 209-557-6400 or visit www.valleyair.org.

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