Plumas County recovering from heavy rain, 100-mph gusts

This century-old barn in Indian Valley is one of 100 buildings in Plumas County damaged by a storm Friday that carried high winds and heavy rain.
This century-old barn in Indian Valley is one of 100 buildings in Plumas County damaged by a storm Friday that carried high winds and heavy rain. Special to The Bee

Plumas County began emerging Monday from a powerful weekend storm that knocked out electricity, uprooted trees and tossed people – and even a goose – in the air, while starting several fires and wreaking significant damage to nearly 100 structures.

The storm, which passed through the Sacramento region with relatively little damage over the weekend, created havoc in Plumas County. Winds gusting at over 100 miles an hour Friday snapped power lines and toppled trees in the worst storm to hit the rural county in many years, said Jerry Sipe, Plumas County director of emergency services.

He estimated the damage to private property at $2.5 million.

County officials declared a state of emergency Friday. “We’re the bull’s eye of this storm,” said Kevin Goss, chairman of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors.

From the time it struck early Friday morning and continued gusting winds and dumping rain throughout the weekend, the storm “affected everybody in the county,” he said.

In Crescent Mills, resident Mike Deal was inside his travel trailer when high winds blew it onto its side, according to Goss. In Chester, a gust of wind picked up a man and carried him for several yards before tossing him into the walls of a building, said Sheriff Greg Hagwood. He said neither victim was seriously injured.

One Indian Valley rancher reported that a domestic goose in a pasture was picked up by winds and carried 10 yards away. The goose, named George, was unharmed.

The most severe injury during the three-day storm was to a Quincy resident whose house burned as a result of what Hagwood called “improvised heating.” The man’s cat died, but the resident, who was not identified, was treated and released from Plumas District Hospital.

The hardest hit homes were in the Chester and Lake Almanor areas, where sustained winds blowing at up to 80 miles an hour tore roofs and uprooted trees onto residences. Sipe said 43 homes on the Lake Almanor peninsula and another 31 in Chester suffered damage ranging from $10,000 to $500,000.

The storm took off roof sections at Chester High School and the Quincy armory building, and caused major damage to a sheriff’s substation in Chester.

More than 8,000 households and businesses were without electricity at the peak of the storm, which also knocked out some cellphone service for at least 24 hours, said Paul Moreno, a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. company spokesman. By Monday, PG&E had restored power to all but around 2,800 customers, most of them in the Lake Almanor area,

“Some of these customers will be without power into Tuesday,” Moreno said.

In eastern Shasta County, the storm slashed electricity for around 5,000 PG&E customers. Around 700 customers were still without power late Monday, with about 300 expected to be restored by 11 p.m. and the remainder on Tuesday, Moreno said.

As many as 100 line workers Monday were repairing more than 30 points of storm-damaged transmission and distribution lines, including power poles that snapped in the wind and lines downed by falling trees. PG&E brought in crews from as far away as Fresno and electric workers from Oregon and Washington to assist local teams, Moreno said.

While the storm-damaged areas are all at high elevations where winds were particularly devastating, Moreno speculated that the prolonged drought may have weakened some trees, making them more susceptible to winds.

Plumas County supervisors were scheduled Tuesday to ratify Friday’s county emergency declaration, which allowed county officials access to state emergency services. The declaration is not expected to result in state or federal emergency funding, Sipe said.