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First Storm Topples Trees
The first of winter's storms, a strong one at that, blew into town on Tuesday, Oct. 13, lashed the area with cold rain and strong winds and blew down an estimated 30 trees - and those were just the ones that blocked roads and sidewalks and got the attention of the Riverbank Public Works Department.

Trees with their limbs still covered with dense foliage and roots loosened by the heavy rain caught the wind and were toppled by gusts as high as 40 mph.

The storm that hit Tuesday was reported to be the remnants of a typhoon spawned in the West Pacific and brought 1.8 inches of rain to the Modesto area, setting a record for a single day during October.

"There was a lot of debris in the streets. This was one of the strongest October storms I've seen," said Assistant Public Works Director Jerry Meyer. "Most of the calls were for trees down. We logged 20 to 30 calls citywide. We were going from one to another. There was minor street flooding. But that wasn't much of an issue. The basins started empty and we had the capacity to handle the storm."

The city had done some pre-storm maintenance, checked on storm water lift stations, for example and cleared the street drains of leaves. Staff members who generally finish work by 3:30 p.m. were laboring until 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

A tall pine tree fell into a power line on Townsend Avenue on the south side of Castleberg Park, sent sparks flying as it leaned over houses and forced PG&E to shut off power and take down the tree.

Traffic lights failed on Patterson Road at Estelle Avenue and caused congestion on Highway 108.

Public Works brought in portable generators to ensure lift stations kept working on the east side of town.

Trees were reported down at Safreno Park, at Cardozo School, in Community Park, all over town.

River Cove resident David Allen had a neighbor's tree graze his roof and fall on his pickup truck sitting in the driveway on Turnberry Drive.

"My wife heard the crash. She was in the house and came out to find the top of the tree in our yard," said Allen. "We've lived here nine or 10 years. We're still good friends with the neighbors. It wasn't their fault. And nobody was hurt."

The damage to his 2002 silver Dodge Ram was extensive, the tree smashing in the rear of the cab and putting a large dent in the passenger side of the truck bed.

His insurance company rated the vehicle a total loss.

"I only bought it last February. Guess I'll get another one." said Allen.

California Avenue School janitor Jesus Ornelas also saw his car damaged by a falling tree. A huge ash descended on his car parked beside his home in Modesto.

It was the 13th wettest day in Modesto since the agency began keeping records in 1888, according to the Modesto Irrigation District.

For future reference, Meyer said Public Works will help homeowners clear trees that have blocked the road or sidewalks but trees falling on private property are the homeowner's concern. He asked they try to avoid blocking the street drains with debris.

City Hall staff noted with pride the intersection of Santa Fe and Third Street that usually used to flood in rainstorms, remained completely dry. Presumably, this was thanks to the installation of new storm drains during redevelopment.