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Winds cause 'extensive damage' in California

Strong gusts caused a blackout at LAX on Tuesday evening and meteorologists say the wind could become stronger on Wednesday. The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore reports.

Some of the fiercest winds in years blasted the West overnight and Thursday, knocking down trees and power lines in California and forcing some schools to close as gusts reached 102 mph in Utah.

The winds left hundreds of thousands of people without power, mainly in California, darkening streets and traffic lights as commuters made their way into work. Pictures of damage -- from uprooted trees blocking streets to toppling houses and buildings -- were shared over and over on social network sites on Wednesday.

Mayor Michael D. Antonovich declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County.


"Did anybody else in LA's block look like Armageddon this morning!?” Regina King posted to her Twitter feed Thursday.

“Here's how bad it is in our neighborhood: the hardware store is sold out of chainsaws,” Alex Jablonski said in his Twitter post.

The National Weather Service issued high wind warnings and advisories for parts of California, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico.

Read an earlier story on worst Santa Ana winds in years

"What the weather experts are telling us are that these probably are the worst windstorms to hit (the area) in more than a decade," Bob Spencer, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works said, adding that preliminary reports suggest "extensive damage."

Areas hard hit:

Southern California
High winds blew over at least six tractor-trailers before dawn on highways below the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County, said California Highway Patrol Officer Mario Lopez.

Pasadena closed schools and libraries and declared a local emergency, the first since 2004. Fire officials said 40 people were evacuated from an apartment building after a tree collapsed, smashing part of the roof.

"We've had several fires, trees into structures, limbs down," Lisa Derderian, Pasandena’s emergency management coordinator told NBC Los Angeles.

Overnight, a tree collapsed the canopy of a gas station, but an employee shut off the pumps and no fuel spilled. Another tree toppled onto a car, trapping the driver, who was taken to a hospital.

The San Gabriel Mission also sustained damage when a 70-foot high eucalyptus tree snapped in the mission's cemetery, the Pasadena Star-News reported.

An estimated 300,000 customers in Southern California were without electricity Thursday. About 26,000 customers were without power in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California.

In northwestern Los Angeles County, sheriff's deputies rescued two men whose boat capsized in 5-foot swells and gusting winds. They clung to the boat as high winds pushed them to a dam with a 200-foot drop.

They were treated for mild hypothermia, and one man, a former opera singer, was so appreciative that he serenaded the rescuers with "God Bless America."

Utah
High winds ripped through Utah, overturning several tractor-trailers on or near Interstate 15, and 54,000 customers were without power along the state's 120-mile Wasatch Front as high winds took down power lines.

Police asked schools to close in Centerville, where the weather service reported a 102 mph gust. Mail delivery and trash pickup were canceled.

Nevada
The winds had died down by Thursday but some delays were reported at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport because of bad weather there.

More news and feature stories from msnbc.com:

NBC News Los Angeles, msnbc.com's Sevil Omer contributed to this report, as did The Associated Press.