Local News

Monday, Apr 08 2013 06:15 PM

Strong winds cause nine traffic collisions in Mojave

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Just enough of a light rain fell on Bakersfield Monday afternoon to wet windshields and clean the air.

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BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

Strong winds whipped up a dust storm, caused a nasty accident on Highway 14 and slowed down at least a couple businesses in east Kern, but spared Bakersfield any major problems.

One dust storm caused major traffic collisions on Highway 14 southbound at Avenue A in Mojave. At 7:51 a.m. there were about nine separate traffic collisions involving a total of 16 vehicles, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Nobody was injured.

"Speed was determined to be a factor in these traffic collisions because of the high winds and the low visibility," said CHP Officer Gil Hernandez.

Visibility had been reduced to zero because of the dust storms.

Later in the afternoon, portions of Highway 14 in Mojave were closed as a result of the dangerous conditions.

In Tehachapi and Frazier Park, winds were reported to be 50 mph Monday morning with some light snow at 5,000 feet.

Local Tehachapi businesses felt the impact of the strong winds as the day went on.

Rose Irigoyen of Julian's Basque Yard Services said her husband, Julian, lost a day of work because of the high winds and snow flurries that were falling off and on early in the morning.

"It's wet outside and with the wind blowing so hard, if we mowed the lawns, the grass and leaves would be scattered all over the place, making a big mess," Irigoyen said.

Business for Sail Thru Carwash in Tehachapi was also slow due to the weather.

"Not very many people are coming through because it's been hailing/snowing on and off, so it's kind of unfortunate for business," said Rachel Avery, assistant manager.

The east Kern weather was the result of a low pressure system coming in from the Gulf of Alaska. It was expected to leave the area Monday night.

The same system resulted in high but not as destructive winds in Bakersfield. At about 7 a.m., winds were 35 mph, said Brian Ochs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford.

"These winds are stronger than we are used to seeing this time of year," Ochs said.

But they didn't fell any trees or do other damage in the city, said Mark Evans, engineering manager for Kern County Roads Department.

"It isn't causing anything out of the ordinary in town but near California City, the wind is causing problems, creating dust storms," Evans said.

The gusty winds did pose potential health concerns for valley residents, said the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in a news release.

Blowing dust could cause serious health problems like aggravating lung disease, triggering asthma and increasing risk of respiratory infections, it said.

For the rest of the week, warmer temperatures are forecast for Bakersfield, with a high of 82 degrees Wednesday and a low of 56 degrees.

Temperatures in the Tehachapi mountains will be cooler during the week, with a high of 70 degrees Wednesday and a low of 42 degrees.

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