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Storm brings high winds

Areas south and west of Merced bore the brunt of Sunday's rainstorms but the local area didn't escape the storms unscathed. Sunday afternoon winds which gusted to 35 to 40 mph at Merced's airport knocked down trees or branches, a couple of them into vehicles and houses.

Dean Bates was coming back to his Creekside Drive home about 1:30 p.m. Sunday when he noticed a pepper tree in the curb strip starting to fall over toward the house. He was able to back his van out of the driveway just before the tree crashed into another car parked there.

"I could hear it coming down slowly," Bates said. "What timing! It could have been worse but I'm still upset."

Between 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Merced received .31 of an inch of rain from a storm that reserved most of its punch for Fresno and Tulare counties. Between noon and 3 p.m. Sunday, wind speeds at the Merced Municipal Airport were recorded at 35 to 40 mph, according to meteorologist Jim Bagnall of the National Weather Service office in Hanford.

Sgt. Jay Struble of the Merced Police Department said there were 10 calls about downed tree limbs Sunday afternoon. About 4 p.m., a 15-foot tree limb fell in the 200 block of East 19th Street, denting the cab of a Ford pickup.

City public works crews quickly responded to Bates' Creekside Drive home and had the remnants of the 35-foot pepper tree, at least 15 years old, run through a chipper and reduced to sawdust. Bates' 1989 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ had a minor dent in its trunklid, scratches and debris all over its red paint. The rain gutter on the front of Bates' garage also was dented where the tree fell.

"This is the first time something like this has happened to me. I could hear the tree creaking and falling," Bates said. He intends to fix up the Chevy compact for his daughter when she turns 16 next year. His three younger children, ages, 5, 7, and 10, were in the van when it escaped the falling tree.

Bagnall said a few showers will linger today in the Merced area, with a 30 percent chance of rain. It will be dry Tuesday with another weak weather system possible Wednesday, followed by a dry day Thursday and another weak system on Friday. There is a slight chance of another rainstorm next Sunday.

While fog isn't likely this week, some frosty early-morning temperatures can be expected. By Tuesday morning, the low in Merced will be 30 degrees, with patchy frost.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209 385-2485 or