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Wind, Rain Storm Pound Community

It was classified - prior to it hitting - as the 'Storm of the Century' and though it didn't pack much of a punch on Sunday, the Friday and Saturday thrashing of the local area by the winter storm was more than enough for local residents.

The city came through relatively unscathed, though there were plenty of tumbleweeds rolling around, scattered power outages, many tree limbs broken off and some signs blown down.

"Overall the city did real well," said Police Chief Doug Dunford on Monday. "The Public Works crews went out and made sure the storm drains were cleaned, in advance of the storm."

Those crews were kept hopping during the height of the storm, though, as the rain on Friday came down almost faster than the city's drainage system could handle it. While there were no reports of water flooding homes or businesses, some yards were inundated and there was the usual pooling of water on some city streets.

The storm actually got started with some solid rain on Thursday, followed by the driving windstorm and rain on Friday.

"We kept the crews on an extra hour and a half on Friday, keeping the drains moving," explained Public Works Superintendent Patrick Riggs. "We did get a lot of calls from people letting us know it was flooding."

That street flooding, he said, subsided as the drains were cleared, but typically municipal drainage systems aren't built for the amount of rain received in that short a time span on Friday.

Over an inch of rain fell that day and more than two inches total was recorded for the storm itself.

Riggs said he did have many people coming in for sandbags as early as Thursday, with predictions of the wetter weather to come and his workers also assisted some elderly residents in sandbagging garages and back doors against the threat of water.

Friday was tough with both the rain and wind, he said, and Saturday brought a second round.

"There were a lot of leaves and debris knocked down by the wind," Riggs said of having a couple workers on the job Saturday, cleaning out the drains once again.

"They would just get finished and they'd start all over again," he said of keeping up with the storm and cleaning out debris. "This was a regular mini-Katrina."

Crews went out Monday morning to clean up any lingering debris, including dozens of tumbleweeds, and checked out the various pumps and drainage basins. One pump, on McHenry, did burn out because of constant use over the weekend but Riggs said that had been repaired, in light of more rain being in the forecast this week.

The police department responded to more than a half dozen calls between 6 a.m. and just after 10 a.m. Friday, all related to the storm. A transformer blew out at Baker Avenue and First Street with wires down just after 6 a.m., with a couple of business alarms caused by the high winds reported on Highway 120 and on Sophie Lane. Power lines were reported down, a traffic sign was damaged and two reports of problems with the railroad crossing arms were also reported.

"Public Works and the Police Department directed traffic when the power went out Friday morning, PG & E responded quickly," Dunford said. "We had some minor outages here and there the rest of the storm, we had some downed trees, some signs blown down."

In nearby Farmington, Fire Chief Conni Bailey said her department was also hopping on Friday.

"We responded to seven calls that day, mostly wires down, trees down, a couple of EMS calls," she said. "We had pre-planned the day, we got our chainsaws ready and we had lots of volunteers here, we had about eight guys here all the time, it was an interesting day, we were busy, like everyone else."

Escalon firefighters also responded to a number of calls, with seven for downed wires between 6:17 a.m. and 11:36 a.m. Friday, a couple of service calls for concerns of flooding and a fire on a power pole at 6:41 p.m. Friday.

With predictions of more rain on Saturday, the department postponed its Christmas tree pick-up at the last minute, and is scheduled to pick them up this Saturday, Jan. 12.

Riggs, meanwhile, said he was pleased with the response by his workers and other city departments, which combined to help the city weather the storm well.

"It was a constant struggle to keep the systems balanced but we were able to keep it (water) from flowing into homes and businesses," he said.