Bakersfield was spared the drubbing that hit much of California on Friday but pelting rain and gusting winds did uproot some trees, knock out power and flood local streets.
As of about 3 p.m., .47 inches had fallen at Meadows Field, a far cry from what our neighbors to the north and south were seeing.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Andersen blamed the rain shadow. No it’s not a Cat Stevens song, it’s a phenomenon created by mountains standing in the path of a storm, which can block or reduce rainfall on the shadow side of the moving weather system.
In the case of this series of storms, the barrier is the mountain range south of Bakersfield.
That’s why at about 10 a.m. Friday when only .11 of an inch of rain had fallen in Bakersfield since Thursday morning, Pine Mountain Club in the southern mountains had received an estimated 1.61 inches overnight, according to weather spotters.
Pine Mountain Club’s daily total had reached 2.82 inches as of 5:20 p.m. Friday, the PMC weather station reported. Tehachapi Municipal Airport received more than 1.5 inches between 2:55 a.m. and 3:35 p.m.
But while Bakersfield’s haul was comparatively paltry, it did cause problems.
California Highway Patrol officers said they responded to about 25 crashes in the Bakersfield area from when the rain first began Friday morning to 3 p.m. Most involved no injuries, with a couple involving minor injuries.
In an incident the CHP said was more related to speed than anything else — but probably not helped by the rain — both the northbound and southbound lanes of Highway 99 through Bakersfield were closed in the morning after a fiery crash involving a big rig.
At about 7:35 a.m., a big rig on the Highway 58 overpass over Highway 99 jackknifed and caught fire. Part of the cab was hanging over the side of the overpass and fuel and antifreeze leaked onto the northbound lanes.
Traffic was diverted to Golden State Highway. All of the 99’s lanes reopened just after noon.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. had a total of 20 outages throughout Kern County Friday, spokeswoman Katie Allen said. The peak number of customers affected, she said, was 4,500 .
The largest outage was in an area between Truxtun Avenue and Stockdale Highway, from Garnsey Avenue east to Cypress Street.
The second largest outage was south of Shafter. It stretched from Reina Road to Imperial Street, from Beech Avenue east to Renfro Road.
Some of the outages were caused by down power lines. Some were clearly weather-related; the causes of some were still being investigated.
At the corner of Marsha Street and South Montclair Street in southwest Bakersfield, Camille Hill, 48, huddled under an umbrella with a co-worker as both stared in amazement at an enormous fallen tree in the parking lot of an office building. The roots lifted the sidewalk off the ground as it toppled over, scraping Hill’s silver 2002 Chevrolet Corvette.
“The paint’s pretty scratched up, but at least you can see it,” she said, trying to look on the bright side. “I feel sorry for that guy.”
“That guy” was Quincy Bass, 39, who had borrowed his grandmother’s navy blue Saturn to pay his rent at Distinctive Properties, the property management company where Hill works.
The only portion of the car that was visible was a sliver of the front end peeking out from beneath a heap of tangled branches and leaves.
“They said we’d have some wind and rain, but I never expected anything like this,” he said during a pause from a flurry of mobile phone calls to notify family members of the accident.
There were smaller trees and bushes down or disheveled in other portions of the 4700 block of South Montclair Street, too.
Betty Carman was on the telephone with her sister when she heard the crash of a tree falling over in the front yard of her unit in the Westside Manor Apartments, which are across the street from the office building.
“At first I thought it was a tornado because I know we were on watch for that,” she said.
A Houston native, Carman is used to tornadoes and hurricanes and thought she’d get a break when she moved to the west coast, but that was not to be.
“I’ve lived in this neighborhood 23 years and I’ve watched almost every tree on this block come down at one time or another,” she said.
Carman was mourning her back yard, home to a lovingly decorated patio that was accessorized to match the animal print theme of her rugs and indoor furnishings.
Four heavy canopy tents were tangled up like discarded bath towels, and patio furniture was strewn all over the place.
“Those canopies are $200 apiece, and I can’t afford to replace them,” she lamented. “I’m on a fixed income.”
Delano was grappling with downed trees, too, said Patrol Commander Raul Alvizo. He also said traffic on Highway 99 near Delano was slow due to flooding and an accident.
Kern County Fire Capt. Eric Coughran said his department fielded calls of down power lines and power outages from Taft, Delano, Wasco and Rosamond.
Bakersfield Assistant Public Works Director Nick Fidler said just before 2 p.m. he was unaware of any significant flooding problems in Bakersfield — but the city does sometimes find itself vulnerable to even short periods of hard rain.
“In a flash flood where it comes down hard for five to 10 minutes, we’ll always get some standing water on the shoulder, and some intersections, we’ll maybe get some water through them,” Fidler said. “Right now it looks like it’s subsided.”
Staff writers Steven Mayer, Ruth Brown, Courtenay Edelhart, Jason Kotowski and Theo Douglas contributed to this story.