Foothill residents and businesses are still coping with the aftermath of one of the most powerful windstorms in memory.
By Jason KUROSU
The coming of winter approaches Southern California not in the form of snow or sleet, but occasionally rain and, in the present case, a windstorm which battered SoCal residents last week, leading to over 400,000 total power outages and leaving some still without electricity.
About 10,000 Southern California Edison customers lacked power nearly a week after the bulk of the winds hit late Wednesday night, Nov. 30, while around 200 to 500 residents still lack power according to Pasadena Water & Power. Glendale Water & Power also reported “approximately 10,000 of its [GWP] 84,800 customers experienced power outages,” according to a statement on their website.
SCE customers Greg and Marilyn Smith live on Willow Haven and lost power Thursday morning.
“We were not prepared,” said Marilyn of being without electricity for about 40 hours. The couple had few flashlights and no candles, ill suited for the cold and dark night.
“I was surprised by how dark it was,” Marilyn said. “All the houses were dark, the streetlights were dark.”
In addition to the numerous outages, officials have estimated millions of dollars in damage to city property and nearly 2,000 trees falling, creating hazards in roadways and contributing to power issues.
Bill Christian dealt not only with branches, trees and leaves whirling through his backyard, but Christmas seemed to have come early for the 83-year-old La Crescenta resident. When he woke up on Thursday morning, there was a row boat in his back yard, apparently blown in on wind gusts that reached 97 mph.
“Just what I wanted,” he quipped. “Thank you Santa! Next year, I’m asking for a flat screen.”
However, Christian understood the gravity of the windstorm.
“Thank goodness nobody was injured,” he said.
Residents have spoken out in frustration over a continued lack of power, intermittent for some, while others are still without power entirely. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich also expressed frustration, particularly with Southern California Edison, chiding them for not resolving the power issues.
“I have urged Southern California Edison to expedite the restoration of power,” said Antonovich in an email.
Antonovich invited Southern California Edison officials to Tuesday’s County board of supervisors meeting in which he criticized SCE’s handling of restoring power to its customers, as well as a lack of coordination with public officials or informing residents.
Veronica Gutierrez, SCE’s vice president for local public affairs, said that the windstorm was “unprecedented.” In a press release from SCE on Tuesday, the windstorm was referred to as “unforeseen damage.”
The same press release stated, quoting SCE President Ron Litzinger, “We will continue to work around the clock until full restoration to all customers is completed and will apply lessons learned to future operations. We appreciate the customers who have been thanking our crews in the field for their tireless work to restore power quickly and as safely as possible.”
Southern California Edison also urged some safety reminders for residents still experiencing a loss of power or who are living near wind-damaged areas, such as watching for traffic signals that may be out, not using cooking equipment indoors that was designed for the outdoors (carbon monoxide emissions) and leaving one’s refrigerator doors closed during the blackout to ensure optimal freshness.
The press release also stated that SCE has opened community outreach centers, where basic supplies such as flashlights and water are being distributed for free.
On the west side of Pennsylvania, Glendale Water & Power customers seemed minimally affected by power outages.
“We had electricity all night, minus two hours on Wednesday night. We had uninterrupted service, thankfully through Saturday. We actually lost power during Saturday’s wind from noon to 8 p.m.,” reported GWP customer Chris Waldheim.
Waldheim also noted the difference driving east on Foothill.
“It was remarkable once you passed Pennsylvania,” he said. “Thursday night in La Crescenta was pitch black with the exception of Ralphs and Softtub. It was reassuring to see sheriff and CHP patrolling in force. It was disappointing to see people blasting through blacked-out street lights like they didn’t exist, however.”
Though the Waldheim family didn’t experience power problems, Mother Nature did leave a calling card: an 80-foot tree fell inside his lot.
“Thankfully it snapped halfway up instead of coming out at the roots,” Waldheim said. “Then it would have landed on our house. I was more worried about the three monster eucalyptus trees [and] watched them through the night with a flashlight, but they were fine. I have yet to deal with the tree debris, but I knew last week was not the week to ask for help chopping it up.”
Residents have raised concerns over the slow pace of officials in clearing debris off the roadways. The County of Los Angeles distributed a press release Monday of tree drop off zones and times where residents can dispose of debris including a drop off zone at Crescenta Valley Regional Park this Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Preparation was the lesson learned by most, but a good sense of humor also helped the situation. Marilyn recounted how, after spending a cold and dark Thursday night, she ventured down to OSH to buy some lanterns to shed some light in her foothill house.
“But after I got home and installed the batteries in the lantern, I realized it was motion activated,” she said. “We had to spend the night waving our arms around to keep the light on.”