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Update: At least 5 dead from toppled trees during Bay Area bomb cyclone storm

Bay Area awakens to wide spread storm damage
Bay Area awakens to wide spread storm damage 02:58

OAKLAND -- At least five people were killed in the Bay Area from toppled trees during a violent "bomb cyclone" storm packing gale-force winds that left widespread destruction Tuesday across the region.

In San Francisco, the city announced Wednesday that two people were killed in separate incidents during the storm Tuesday. The victims were not immediately identified.

In Oakland, a person in a tent next to Lake Merritt was killed when a tree fell on him, the Oakland Fire Department said Wednesday. The incident was reported at about 4:23 p.m. Tuesday on the 500 block of Bellevue Ave.  

He was pronounced dead at the scene, the fire department said. The person's identity was withheld until his family members were notified. 

The two other victims killed by falling trees Tuesday were identified by authorities Wednesday morning.

The San Mateo County Coroner's Office said 29-year-old San Jose resident Jesus Ivan Cruz-Diaz was the man driving a white utility van in Portola Valley when a tree toppled onto it as he drove on Alpine Road just west of Interstate Highway about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

A van appears crumpled after a tree fell on it while traveling on Alpine Road in Portola Valley just west of I-280, killing the driver, March 21, 2023. CBS

Walnut Creek resident Thomas Huster, 79, was identified as the deceased victim when a tree fell on his car on Stanley Dollar Drive between Rossmoor Parkway and Tice Creek Drive at about 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Coroner's Office said. A second person in the car suffered minor injuries.

Tree that fell onto vehicle during storm, killing one person inside and injuring another, is seen in Walnut Creek, Calif., March 21, 2023. @ContraCostaFire

The San Francisco Fire Department said four people were injured, three critically, by falling trees around the city on Tuesday afternoon during the storm fueled by explosive cyclogenesis, otherwise known as a bomb cyclone, a rapid deepening of a low-pressure area that produces gale-force winds with heavy precipitation.

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"Wow, even by the standards of what has turned out to be one of our most extraordinary winter seasons in a very long time, yesterday stands out," the National Weather Service said of the storm. "Explosive cyclogenesis over the eastern Pacific resulted in a 984 mb low-pressure center just west of the San Mateo County coast, and associated widespread strong and damaging winds and flooding rains."

Newark bomb cyclone storm
Firefighters in Newark at the scene of a toppled tree on top of a pickup truck, March 21, 2023. One person was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Alameda County Fire Department

The storm also blocked roads and created widespread traffic nightmares because of fallen trees, flooding and debris. Winds flipped over a big rig on the Bay Bridge Tuesday afternoon, blocking the eastbound evening commute traffic for hours, while a slide forced the closure of Interstate Highway 580 lanes east of Livermore. State Highway 92 on the Peninsula and Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains were among the major roadways that saw closures because of falling trees Tuesday.

Many residents like Montara's Andrea Higdon were left with homes or vehicles crushed by falling trees. She was in bed at 1:30 a.m. when she was awoken by a thunderous crash.

"I was sleeping, I just heard this bang, I knew it was a tree," she said. "It was really loud and really close. I opened outdoors and it smelt like a Christmas tree, I came out and three of our cars, a tree from across the street, just slammed the cars."

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