LOS ANGELES - Some of the worst Santa Ana winds in years blasted through California, toppling trees and power lines and delaying flights as a low-pressure front threatened bring fierce gusts throughout Southwestern states.
High wind warnings and wind advisories are in effect for parts of California, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming.
In California, winds sweeping down through canyons created gusts of up to 80 mph through the night, with a 97 mph gust recorded Wednesday night at Whitaker Peak in Los Angeles County.
"What's driving this is a large, cold low-pressure system that's currently centered over Needles, Calif. The strong winds are wrapping around it," weather service forecaster Andrew Rorke said.
The system will sit and spin counter-clockwise over the area for the next day, although "it won't be quite as hellacious" as on Wednesday night, Rorke said.
The pressure front will then begin moving cross-country, eventually bringing blustery weather to Oklahoma, Missouri and Indiana, he said.
More than 250,000 customers in Southern California were without electricity Thursday morning and about 26,000 more in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California. San Francisco was spared any blackouts but thousands elsewhere in the Bay area were in the dark.
In Southern California, 23 flights were diverted and several delayed beginning Wednesday at Los Angeles International airport because of severe crosswinds and debris on runways, officials said.
The winds had died down by Thursday morning but some delays were reported in both arriving and departing flights, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.
Northeast of Los Angeles, foothill communities were hard hit as the winds swept down the San Gabriel Mountains.
Trees, some more than 100 feet tall, crashed down in the suburbs Wednesday and landed on homes in Pasadena and near Beverly Hills, but no major injuries were reported. Several dozen people in Pasadena were evacuated from an apartment complex when a tree fell on it and smashed the roof.
A gas station in Pasadena was damaged overnight after a tree crashed onto the gas pumps, but an employee shut off the pumps and no fuel leaked.
"We probably have over 100 trees that are down and arcing wires and transformers that have blown," police Lt. Jari Faulkner told the Los Angeles Times.
The winds were colder but fiercer than the Santa Ana winds that often hit California in late fall, but they carried the same ability to dry out brush and push fires into conflagrations.