Winds dying down, but expect an evening chill in North County

The strong winds that raked San Luis Obispo County on Thursday, causing widespread power outages and forcing tours at Hearst Castle to be canceled, should end by this afternoon.

But a new weather challenge will develop: Over the next five nights, temperatures in the North County will be below freezing. The National Weather Service said overnight lows in Paso Robles and Atascadero won’t rise out of the 20s until Wednesday morning.

The winds that blasted much of California on Thursday were the result of interaction between high pressure off the coast near San Francisco and low pressure over Southern California, said John Lindsey, a PG&E community relations specialist and Central Coast weather expert.

High pressure in the atmosphere flows toward low pressure, so conditions were right for winds to blow over the state, he explained.

A gauge atop Hi Mountain, a 3,190-foot peak east of San Luis Obispo, recorded a 63 mph gust Thursday morning, Lindsey said. Sustained winds at San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport were more than 20 mph, while the Paso Robles airport had sustained winds of nearly 30 mph.

The North Coast was the hardest-hit area for power outages, with about 4,200 PG&E customers in Cambria affected when trees or limbs crashed into power lines, Lindsey said.

Power was out for Cambria’s 23rd annual Hospitality Night, when Christmas trees are officially lighted in the East and West villages and businesses open their doors. The event might be rescheduled for next week.Hearst Castle also lost electricity and, even with backup generators, State Parks officials decided to cancel tours because they were worried about visitors being struck by falling tree debris.

“There was just so much debris (from trees) coming down,” said Nick Franco, superintendent of the State Parks district that includes Hearst Castle. “We expect to open Friday.”

Power also went out to PG&E customers in Templeton, Shandon, Baywood Park and a part of Los Osos. Overall, about 5,900 of the utility’s customers lost power throughout the county. Lindsey expected electricity to be back to most if not all customers by today.

Winds could still be strong this morning, but will turn gentle by the afternoon as the low-pressure system moves toward Arizona.

Clear, calm conditions overnight will mean a drop in temperatures, forecasters said. Lows in the North County tonight will plunge to the high 20s, while it will be in the mid-30s in San Luis Obispo and along the coast.

The nighttime chill will remain in place through Tuesday night, the weather service said.

Daytime highs will be in the low to mid-60s countywide through the middle of next week.

Continued strong high pressure over the Eastern Pacific Ocean will block any storms from coming down from Alaska, Lindsey said, and as a result, there is no possibility of rain until the middle of December.

Assistant City Editor Bert Etling contributed to this report.