an uprooted pine tree showing its roots in front of a street and red truck

Powerful, gusty winds that rattled windows and cut off power to several thousand Berkeley residents on Monday are expected to ease up by Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Though most of Berkeley didn’t experience hurricane-force winds exceeding 80 mph, like in higher elevation areas near Mt. Diablo, large gusts moving at 40-50 mph were strong enough to knock over trees, damage power lines and cause major damage on city streets.

A NWS wind advisory is in effect in the East Bay hills until 6 p.m. Tuesday. There is currently no red flag warning locally, but several East Bay Regional Park District wildlife areas have been closed until 8 a.m. on Wednesday. This includes Claremont Canyon and all ridgeline trails from Wildcat Canyon to Lake Chabot.

South Berkeley resident Andrew Leonard was woken at 2:30 a.m. after a full-grown pine tree in his front yard toppled into his second-story bedroom, completely shattering the window. Leonard wasn’t injured, but said glass was strewn throughout the room in the middle of the night.

The wind storm cut off power to 2,765 PG&E customers overnight, and at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday 450 customers were still waiting for their power to return in Berkeley, PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian said. The outages in Berkeley are due to wind-related damage, and not Public Safety Power Shutoffs.

“PG&E has been working around the clock to safely restore power to areas experiencing wind-driven damage that has caused outages throughout our service area,” Sarkissian said.

An uprooted pine tree in South Berkeley due to strong winds on Jan. 18, 2021. Photo: Andrew Leonard Credit: Andrew Leonard

PG&E also shared several safety tips on assessing and responding to any damage that may have happened due to the wind event:

  • Before moving downed trees or branches, check for power lines. Assume all lines are energized and extremely dangerous. Do not touch or try to move them – keep everyone away. Report downed power lines immediately by calling 911 and then PG&E at 1-800-743-5000.
  • Use generators safely. Standby electric generators should be properly installed by a licensed electrician and placed in a well-ventilated area.
  • Secure your outdoor furniture. Secure items that can be blown by high winds and damage overhead power lines and property.
  • Have a backup phone. If your phone system requires electricity to work, plan to have a standard telephone or cellular phone ready as a backup.
  • Have fresh drinking water, ice. Freeze containers filled with water and place in your refrigerator during an outage to prevent foods from spoiling.

Anna Schneider, meteorologist with the NWS, said wind speeds have already begun to drop Tuesday afternoon, and there are expected to dissipate over the course of the evening.

This weather, which usually occurs in the summer and fall in the Bay Area, was caused by an “offshore pressure gradient” that prompted powerful gusts throughout the Bay Area, including southern areas like Santa Cruz and Big Sur.

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Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...