Another day of record warm weather caused trouble in Kern County Friday as a wind-blown tree forced Arvin residents to get by with little or no tap water, and dry, dusty conditions raised concerns about wildfire risks and limited driver visibility.
Winds let up considerably by late afternoon, and the National Weather Service raised hopes that a shift in the local climate pattern could bring light precipitation within 10 days.
That may be little comfort to Arvin residents whose faucets stopped running at about 8 p.m. Thursday after strong winds uprooted a tree that happened to stand over a water main on the south side of Comanche Drive about a block east of Bear Mountain Boulevard.
That same day, winds knocked over a tree at Bakersfield College, injuring a student who had to be hospitalized.
The Arvin tree’s lifted roots caused a leak in the 6-inch diameter plastic pipeline. Officials with the Arvin Community Services District said a few hundred customers went without water while several hundred more made do with low water pressure. State and county health officials, however, said the number of affected residents numbered 18,000.
A utility crew worked through the night to remove the tree and replace a 15-foot section of pipeline. They were able to restore water service by mid-afternoon Friday.
The utility joined public health officials in warning residents about the potential for bacterial contamination resulting from the stoppage. They advised residents to boil and then cool water before drinking it to avoid stomach or intestinal illnesses.
“Boiling water kills any potential bacteria and other organisms in the water,” Matt Constantine, the Kern County Public Health Services Department director, said in a news release issued Friday afternoon.
Before water service was restored, a Clinica Sierra Vista office next to the broken main had to bring in a pair of portable toilets and a hand-washing station for patients and staff.
Although Clinica CEO Steve Schilling said at about noon Friday that he was growing impatient with the water stoppage, he was glad the clinic was able to continue serving clients.
“We’re in business,” he said.
Thursday and Friday’s high winds and dry conditions prompted the National Weather Service to call a blowing dust advisory for drivers and a red flag warning because of the risk of wildfire. Both were set to expire at 9 p.m. Friday.
The agency said Friday’s high of 79 degrees in Bakersfield set a new record for the day. The previous record, set in 1946, was 77 degrees.
A meteorologist at the weather service’s Hanford office, Cindy Bean, said there were signs the high pressure system of the last few weeks — whose shifts brought on the winds — could give way to precipitation in early February.
But she cautioned that it remains far from certain whether the dry spell will end soon. And even if it does, she said, don’t expect a lot of precipitation.
“(Changing weather systems) may bring us some light rain, light snow but certainly ... nothing real significant at this point,” she said.
Thursday’s winds kicked up enough dust to temporarily create near-foglike conditions along Highway 99 and other area arteries. And many worried about the dangers of breathing the dust-filled air.
But the news wasn’t all bad.
While Thursday’s high winds created dusty conditions, they appear to be responsible for significantly reducing concentrations of PM2.5, the ultra-fine particles of soot, aerosols and other materials that have been present in Bakersfield at unhealthy levels for weeks.
All day Friday, at least through 5 p.m., an air monitor in central Bakersfield showed PM2.5s in the “good” range, below 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
In recent weeks, such a reading has been unheard of.
While the real-time data produced by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is considered preliminary, it appears the wind and the unsettled weather may have brought at least one benefit.
— Staff writer Steven Mayer contributed to this report.