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Local News

Storm pummels county

A man with a chainsaw cutting a tree limb away from a white picket fence and a home.
A firefighter works to clear a redwood limb away from a mobile home on Leslie Street in Ukiah. The home was later yellow-tagged.

Sunday’s storm left most of the coast dark, strewed trees and powerlines all over the county, and led to the evacuation of three homes in Ukiah. Last night, the Mendocino County Office of Education reported that Manchester Union Elementary school, Pacific Charter School, and Point Arena Schools will remain closed today.

Ukiah appears to have suffered the brunt of the property damage, though there’s not yet a tally of the lost food and business due to power outages in the unincorporated parts of the county.

Ryan Nelson, a captain and paramedic with the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority, reported that the department received 44 calls on Sunday, 12 of them non storm-related medical calls. No pilots would fly in the weather. He reported 28 hazardous trees and powerlines on roadways. A large oak tree, six or seven feet in diameter at its base, fell onto the the hood of a car traveling north at Pomo Lane on North State Street at 3:44 on Sunday afternoon. The street was closed for about 45 minutes, but neither the driver nor the passenger was hurt. The department usually has four people on duty, but Nelson said he mustered up to 14 for the heavy workload.

Matt Kaizer, the Chief Building Inspector for the City of Ukiah, said that of the three homes that were evacuated, two were red-tagged, meaning they are not supposed to be inhabited until they have received a thorough inspection . A red-tagged home on Hazel sustained tree-inflicted damage to the roof, including trusses and rafters. One unit in an apartment building on Waugh Avenue has been red-tagged due to a tree leaning heavily on the roof, while another unit has merely been yellow-tagged, which restricts access to parts of the structure. A house on Maple Avenue sustained damage to the roof and interior ceiling, while a mobile home on Leslie Street and another house on Pine Street were yellow-tagged. Kaizer expects that more damage will come to light in the coming days.

Volunteer fire departments were busy in the unincorporated parts of the county, too, mostly with downed power and communication lines and trees in the roads.

At 11:00 am Monday, Albion Little River Fire Chief Michael Rees was finally heading home after his first call at 9:00 am the previous day. He reported no injuries, no medical aids, and no traffic collisions, but said a fallen tree early Monday morning shifted the foundation of a small cabin.

Rees’ biggest complaint was with AT&T, which he said never sent help when emergency responders tried to get the company to send personnel to cut trees off their lines. He explained that the lines have a lot of tension on them, so when fallen trees are removed, the released pressure can cause heavy wood debris to fly, causing serious injury or death. He said eventually, his crew and Caltrans workers cut the trees off the lines, and no one was hurt.

He said power was out in Albion and Little River, though the PG&E outage map at that time said power was currently on for all customers in both communities. According to the outage map, 16,301 customers across the unincorporated area were out of power early Monday afternoon.

John Pisias, assistant chief of the Mendocino fire department, reported that the first call came in at 9:00 am Sunday, and by late Monday morning, the department had gotten reports about 21 trees down, many affecting power and communications lines. He said there hadn’t been any property damage in the fire district, which has about 2,000 people. He also said Monday afternoon that the power had been out in his district since 8:00 Sunday night, except for a brief interlude of about 20 minutes, though the PG&E outage map said power was on in the town.

In Anderson Valley, Battalion Chief Angela DeWitt said her department had gotten a couple dozen calls, including one “in the wee hours” about a eucalyptus tree down on the tasting room in Boonville. Her crews spent the night clearing trees out of the roadways and conducting traffic control. She also found that AT&T was not responsive to calls to get trees off their lines, and said that the company sometimes takes days to respond.

There was also a minor earthquake just three miles north/northeast of Boonville on Sunday, according to the Southern California Earthquake Data Center. The 3.2 magnitude temblor was two kilometers deep and does not appear to have caused any damage.

Parts of the county were quiet. Chief Kerry Robinson, of the Redwood Valley Calpella Fire District, said his community “fared pretty well,” though a crew closed Marina Drive at Lake Mendocino, due to a group of trees that came down near some campgrounds that were closed anyway. Another tree came down across Road B, but as of Monday afternoon, he had received no reports of trees falling down on cars or houses.

Doug Moyer, assistant chief of the Comptche Volunteer Fire Department, reported one call on Sunday morning due to a downed tree. The power went out Sunday and was still out on Monday afternoon.

Michelle Schnitzius, the board secretary and administrative assistant for the Little Lake Fire District, said she was “shocked at how little action” firefighters in Willits saw during the storm. One resident who lost power called for help with a generator, and the department sent three engines to a major event that has been taking place on February fourth for 116 years. It was Edie Ceccarelli’s birthday, and Schnitzius said her parade took place in the rain.

Local News
Sarah Reith came to Mendocino County in 2008 and worked as a reporter and freelancer, joining KZYX as a community news reporter in 2017. She became the KZYX News Director in March, 2023.