By Mary O’KEEFE
The recent wind event has left many residents with lights finally back on but a lot of questions as to why it took so long to get power back up and where the break down occurred in communications between Southern California Edison and their customers.
“People were upset,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for Los Angeles County Mayor Michael Antonovich.
Antonovich’s office fielded many calls from residents who were not only upset that their power was off but they could not get a clear answer from the utility company as to how long they would be in the dark.
“We had hospitals and [nursing homes] calling and residents who were taking care of elderly in their homes,” Bell said. “Most of the calls that I took were from people that had no idea what was going on.”
On Dec. 1, Antonovich declared a State of Emergency in Los Angeles County. The cities of Pasadena, Sierra Madre and Monrovia declared local emergencies.
In the meantime, one La Crescenta resident just wanted some answers about when her power would be restored. Electric wires were down in her neighborhood, however an SCE repair truck was nowhere to be seen for days.
“We went out on Thursday morning at 5 [a.m.] and we didn’t see anyone [from SCE] until Tuesday and that was only after we called Mike Antonovich’s office,” said Diane Bularz.
Bularz was without power for six days.
State Assemblymember Anthony Portantino, a La Cañada Flintridge resident, was also dealing with a number of calls at his office.
“I think one of the biggest issues was [the need for] better coordination,” Portantino said.
He added people that contacted him were frustrated with the lack of accurate communication with the utility company.
“The situation was no one was getting information. People were left in the dark, figuratively and literally,” Bell said.
After some residents throughout San Gabriel were without electricity for five days, Antonovich urged SCE to expedite the restoration of power. He requested a meeting with the utility officials and requested them to increase communication to impacted residents.
As a result of all the miscommunication, officials are concerned about future power outages either due to weather or earthquake.
Antonovich put a motion before the L.A. County board of supervisors requiring the California Public Utilities Commission to oversee a program that would require and implement an effective communication plan between the utility company and consumers. The motion was approved.
Portantino is introducing a bill that would require each utility company to report with every county in its service area every two years for the purpose of reviewing, updating and improving their emergency disaster and preparedness plans.
While the power was out, Crescenta Valley Water District was working quickly to respond to the power outage. CVWD deployed emergency generators to strategic locations allowing continued water delivery to the upper reservoirs in the system. Following their set emergency procedures, CVWD was able to get extra power sources to keep their telephone and Internet system up.
The city of Glendale kept residents constantly updated through the city’s website that included information on how many trees and power lines were down, the progress on debris clean up, the status of Glendale Unified School District and schools, and outages in the Glendale Water and Power area.
Los Angeles County Public Works hit the ground running as the windstorm moved through the area.
“We immediately went [to work] after the wind event. Crews responded first to public safety concerns,” said Kerjon Lee, L.A. County Public Works public affairs manager.
The crews first cleaned trees and debris from public roads and neighborhoods. They then went to work on the debris basins.
“In the Arroyo Seco [basin] there were trees that needed to be cleared,” Lee said.
Luckily they had about a week between the windstorm and rainstorm. The basins were clear in time for the rains. The Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station did not report any damage due to flooding from the recent rains.
Some of the debris was taken, temporarily, to sediment placement sites, Lee said.
DPW will be working with the city of Pasadena to transport the debris to one of their facilities where it will be turned into mulch and will eventually be available for residents.
SCE customers who are interested in filing a claim of lost appliances or food due to extended power outages can do so by visiting www.sce.com/CustomerService/request/claims/claims-information.
After filling out a form, an SCE claims representative will contact the resident. Claims can be faxed to (626) 569-2573 or contact SCE at (800) 655-4555.
This weekend there will be free debris drop off at Crescenta Valley Park, 3901 Dunsmore Ave. For more information contact Allied Waste Services, (888) 742-5234.