Breaking: High winds wreak havoc around Berkeley

Downed trees in Berkeley. Photo: Pete Rosos

Downed tree at Oregon and Fulton in Berkeley on Thursday Nov. 21. Photo: Pete Rosos

Strong winds throughout the North and East Bay are taking down trees, knocking out power and sending debris, branches and leaves swirling through Berkeley streets Thursday night.

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory this afternoon for the East Bay hills and the Diablo range that will be in effect through 10 a.m. Friday. At 10:40 p.m., PG&E reported 37 outages affecting 7,561 customers in Berkeley.

Residents around Thousand Oaks, near Peralta and Gilman, and on Oregon Street near Sacramento reported being without power.

Winds were expected to increase from early Thursday evening into Friday morning.

East to northeast winds from 35-39 mph were predicted, with gusts up to 45 mph. At elevations from 900-2,500 feet, winds up to 69 mph were predicted.

Residents are warned to watch out for downed trees and power lines, as well as difficult driving conditions.

A downed tree at Stuart and MLK. Photo: Emilie Raguso

High winds downed a tree at Stuart and MLK in Berkeley on Thursday Nov. 21. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Along Martin Luther King Jr. Way, emergency crews had the roadway blocked with caution tape at westbound Dwight, where police said a tree had fallen.

“It’s happening all over the city,” said Berkeley Police Sgt. Cesar Melero.

Further south, at Martin Luther King and Stuart, a driver in a maintenance truck attached a rope to a downed tree and pulled it off the sidewalk at the corner.

At Martin Luther King and Russell, the traffic signal was out, and the intersection was marked with several burning flares.

In neighboring Oakland two people were in wind-related accidents Thursday, according to KTVU. A collision between a vehicle and a fallen tree the 13000 block of Skyline Boulevard at 8:36 p.m. killed an occupant of the car, Oakland police said, and another person was killed when a power line came down on Austin Street near Fruitvale Avenue.

This story was updates as new information emerged.

Use the comments below to let us and your fellow Berkeley residents know what you’ve seen happening tonight as a result of the wind. This story may be updated as more information becomes available. Send wind-related photos to

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  • G

    A big tree just fell on Acton out side Pizza Moda

  • designgauge

    Power just went out in the eEmwood/ Claremont neighborhoods

  • Guest

    A large tree fell onto a house on the 1400 block of Hearst, between Short and Acton.

  • stephenkaus

    Big branch down on Claremont just north of college.

  • e

    Power line hanging over the sidewalk on McGee just south of Bancroft, so be careful in the area. Power is out so it will be difficult to see it

  • Anon

    Big branches, maybe a tree took out a fence at Carlton and Fulton. Power just came back on.

  • Mike

    Huge tree branches from the tree in our front yard fell all over the house at Telegraph and Woolsey.

  • g.k.b

    Traffic lights are not working around Martin Luther King and Bancroft. There are a lot of branches on the street that are difficult to see.

  • Chris J

    Hope everyone is ok out there. Regardless, I love this kind of weather. Its interesting, kinda exciting. Does that make me odd? I also like spicy food and stinky cheeses…what’s the point of eating a mild cheddar or having the same ol’ overcast days be interesting?

    Blow some more, momma. And be careful out there.

  • Guest

    Power still out at Neilson x Solano in north Berkeley. Safeway and the south side of solano looks like it has power though. We often get outages on this particular ‘spur’ of the grid.

  • Jame

    It is out in lots of Oakland as well. It’s dark in Piedmont (the city) and Piedmont Ave neighborhood.

  • Owen

    So much for sleeping! This has to be record setting.

  • Suzanne Yada

    Power still out at 1:30am near downtown, west of MLK. Has been out since, I’m not sure, 8 pm? 9 pm?

  • Patricia

    Power restored at 2:30 AM on Rose Street.

  • CE

    PG&E has been at our corner all night long trying to fix the downed power lines on Brookside/Claremont. A tree fell on Brookside around 10 pm. Live power lines were dangling over our driveway and our neighbors. There were several firework-like sparks when the accident originally happened. This occurred about 30 minutes after fire trucks had responded to the sad fall of one of the most beautiful oak trees in Berkeley which is now leaning on my neighbor’s home.
    Our family sleeping in front hallway downstairs since we are surrounded by enormous redwood on one side and huge oak on other.
    Yet as we all rest in the comfort of our dark homes, those PG&E workers continue grinding away in three big trucks at our corner trying to bring us electricity again. Here’s to the hardworking men and women spending their night helping the rest of us.

  • Eric Westby

    Power out from about 3am to 5am on Dwight near San Pablo Ave. Major props to the work crew who fixed the downed lines on Mathews so quickly!

  • serkes

    Berkeleyside … the “go-to” place for breaking wind stories.

    Sorry … I just could not resist.


  • A big tree branch fell on my car causing thousands in damage. I had called the city on 10/11/2013, told them the tree needed to be trimmed before a branch fell on a car as it had 7 years ago (yes, I have a confirmation # and documented it all).

    It took until 10/31 to get a call back from Parks Supervisor Dan Gallager who told me the tree was assessed on 10/24 and that there was a long list of work ahead of me. I insisted it there was a real danger of damage and he said they’d get to it “sometime this winter.”

    BTW, this is the same tree that is tearing up my sidewalk that the city just sent us a bill for $2000 to replace.

    I can’t cut down the tree per city ordinance, but the damage to my property and bank account keep mounting!

    Adding insult to injury, I have to file an insurance claim and pay a deductible for my car to get repaired that was damaged by a tree that the city already knew was a problem. Even my insurance company was stunned by the “too bad, we’re too busy attitude of the city.”

    Rest assured, come the next election, they’ll want even more property tax…more and more money are going down a bottomless pit around here and there’s no accountability.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    all the more reason to put the power lines underground

  • I forgot to point out that my car was parked in my driveway. That’s how far the overhanging branches from the city owed tree are. Yes, there are many more that can repeat the damage in another storm.

  • guest

    Sounds like you might have grounds for a small claims suit against the city for dereliction of duty. At the very least this sounds like grounds to have the nuisance tree finally removed.

    Personally I would have just trimmed the tree myself without asking for permission. The city staff have their heads so far up their collective rears that I doubt any of them would have noticed.

  • 12.44.020

    I can’t cut down the tree per city ordinance,

    Did you request a permit to remove (or have removed) the branch without waiting for the city? Supposedly you’re able to do so but I’ve never had to try to get one myself.

  • southberkeleyres

    Maybe he could pay for the sidewalk repair from Small Claims proceeds too! If the city worker’s contributed towards their generous and unsustainable pensions, it could help with the reductions in service.
    Wishing you success in your Small Claims action if you proceed West Bezerkeley. What a frustrating and absurd situation!

  • southberkeleyres

    Mulberry tree down on the sidewalk at Ellis near Ashby. Broke off at the trunk base. Could have killed someone. Glad no neighbor’s cars were in the way! Not to mention it’s the sidewalk across from the elementary school.

  • BlakeSt

    I’m on Blake between Mathews and San Pablo and didn’t have power as of 9am – left for work so I don’t know if it’s back up there.

  • TN

    If you have collision coverage in your auto insurance policy, let the insurance company take care of the claim. Be sure to tell the claims adjuster that this is a “recovery” case. That means that the insurance company can make a claim against the city for the damages that the company pays out to you. When the company’s claim against the City is settled, your deductible will also be paid to you.

    I speak from personal experience on this having had a large street tree fall on our previous house in Berkeley.

  • Culper Agent 355

    I couldn’t agree more! We have horrible camphor trees on our block which tear up the sidewalks and need to be cut out every five years. This constant cutting also destabilizes the tree. Also, do people realize when they plant a small tree under a large tree canopy, that it will likely fail?

  • Thank you for that bit of info. Much appreciated!

  • I don’t have equipment to trim a tree of that size unfortunately.

  • I have previously asked another Parks Supervisor Betsy Reeves to cut
    down the tree and she refused saying the tree was healthy despite the
    fact that a huge area of the side of the tree has no bark & every
    year there are dead branches on it in the middle of summer and it has dropped a branch that damaged a car in our drive way before.

  • 12.44.020

    Sure. I was thinking of just the immediate problem of removing a problematic limb that went on a wait-list. Just so that nobody labors under a misunderstanding: It’s unlawful to do work on a sidewalk tree without a permit but the Director of Parks and Rec has the discretion to issue permits after an inspection. That would presumably still leave you paying an arborist, assuming a permit was issued, but it might be an option to look into if you think the threat is imminent.

  • Tizzielish

    You can rent such equipment fairly affordably.

  • I do understand what you are saying, but what you are describing is a zero sum game with me the consistent loser.

    The issue as I see it is that I can either have my property damaged by a city owned tree that the Parks department already knows is a problem, or I can go through a permit process & hire an arborist at my expense. From my perspective, both methods look like an off the books city tax.

  • bgal4

    sorry this is happening. we succeeded in getting the city to remove a tree which was damaging two sewer laterals, sidewalks, retaining walls, and the street. The tree was healthy alright, sewer sucker Ash, a nuisance street tree.

    I personally think the city should remove any species identified as a nuisance tree causing damage. I have seen government created lists identifying problematic species. What kind of a tree is this one?

  • TN

    Aside from spreading the economic risk, taking care of the hassles of dealing with other parties is why we pay for insurance. A insurance company with good claims service is worth a higher premium. There’s no point in getting aggravated with the city. Let the company you pay premiums to, do their job.

  • Reebs

    Came home about 10:30 last night and found a HUGE tree branch totally blocking my driveway. I had to park on the street (away from any large trees!), and the branch was still there this morning when I left for work! I live on Sacramento between Addison and Allston. What a night!!

  • Some kind of non-fruiting pear tree I think.

    The crazy thing is that I told Dan Gallagher this would happen in a wind storm and that if my property was damaged that they insurance company would go after the city. He shrugged it off. As it turns out, that is exactly what the insurance company is considering.

    If city employees don’t care about protecting the city from liability, where does that leave us, the tax payers? Frightening thought.

    Side note — Darryl Moore’s office has offered to help with the situation on Monday when the office is open again.

  • lifeis tough

    Your frustration is understandable, your losses are unfortunate. But anger towards an unfair reality is wasteful. Im sure youve got better things to think about. The tree was a threat to you, and by no fault of yours. more often than not, people everywhere are stuck dealing with problems that they didn’t create. Fundamentally then, complaint about this cost is like complaining about having to work to feed yourself. In the same way you come to terms with that reality, maybe you can find a little piece of mind regarding this event. And maybe next time you’d opt to take ownership over the problem yourself rather than blame your circumstances. hopefully youll feel a little better about this and be more prepared to handle similar situations. best regards to you.

  • guest

    Tool Lending Library, dude.

  • guest

    If you called on Oct. 11 and had it assessed on Oct. 24, forestry got to your place within seven working days and then called you the next week to tell you that you were on the list. What exactly did you expect, to be put first in line when other people are waiting? You knew the tree was a problem for seven years, so you should have called long before October. I waited over a year to get my tree trimmed. As for sidewalks, it’s the City’s policy to share the cost of sidewalk repair as a cost saving measure. If you want more money for infrastructure repairs and service, get on the horn to Darryl Moore and tell him to support pension reform so that City employees pay more into PERS. In fact, collect signatures in your neighborhood. Nothing is going to happen unless the taxpayers stop complaining and start organizing.

  • guest

    Those stupid pear trees were planted all over West Berkeley. They are big weeds with huge unstable branches. And they drop leaves like crazy in January, which we are responsible for raking up because we are liable if somebody slips and falls on the wet leaves. They must be aggressively trimmed or removed. At least three of these ugly monsters have been removed by forestry from our block after branches broke off during similar wind storms. If you are too far down on the list, you can get a permit and hire a private arborist to do the job. They aren’t cheap, and hard to hire at this time of year because they are super busy with winter pruning. Good luck.

  • bgal4

    no chain saws or cherry pickers at the tool lending library

  • bgal4

    what is the per diem rate for a cherry picker?

  • guest

    Additionally, the sidewalk repair ordinance has been on the books, as it is in many cities, since 1918. The tree ordinance, again typical of main cities, since 1954. These liabilities were presumably conditions attached to the property at the time of purchase. It’ll be obscene if Berkeley taxpayers have to pay a settlement for the consequences of knowingly, during a big wind storm, parking one’s car under a tree they believe may drop a big branch during a wind storm.

  • guest

    Don’t give up so easily. Try a pole saw and one of the tall ladders.

  • Make Change Not Excuses

    Those whose salaries are paid by residents through taxes are creating an unfair system whereby they exact more money from residents via off-the-books fees and taxes of this nature.

    Sounds like something worth being outraged about, in my opinion. Civil servants should live up to their title rather than seeking every possible opportunity to rip off the people who make their jobs possible.

    Berkeley’s city government has been biting the hand that feeds for far too long.

  • guest

    The point of aggrivation is that taxpayers lose in this equation because city workers are too lazy to do their jobs.