Santa Ana winds roared around the Southern California area on Monday. Thousands of residents were left without electricity as companies performed power outages to reduce the risk of fires. Mauricio Murillo has more on the story.
All of Southern California experienced high winds... but Santa Barbara County, the Grapevine, and the Antelope Valley, to name a few, felt the strongest. Dr. Scott Epstein, the Program Supervisor at South Coast Air Quality Management District, said these winds brought one of the most intense dust events we’ve seen in over a decade.
“The National Weather Service has forecasted some Santa Ana winds that week [of Oct. 11], but we’re not expecting to see the extremely high levels of dust that we saw on Monday [Oct. 11] night. These large scale dust events are really rare in the L.A. area.”
Power companies like Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison have alarmed their users that there could be power outages in areas they deem as high risk. Diane Castro, Senior Advisor, Media Relations at Southern California Edison, explains why programmed power outages are needed.
“These actually they’re called public safety power shutoffs, and they’re meant to keep the community safe. So what happens if conditions indicate that fire danger is elevated, then we may temporarily shut off power to some customers who live in areas with a high risk of wildfires.”
Deanna Contreras, PG&E Marketing and Communications spokesperson, considered that the company takes into account a number of factors before shutting down the power.
“It’s mostly wind gusts 90 miles per hour. I’m sorry, sustained winds at 19 miles per hour or more, or wind gusts 30 to 40 miles per hour. Humidity levels generally 30 percent or low or below just condition of the fuel on the ground. If it’s a red flag warning day, high fire threat weather is what we’re looking at a combination of these factors if we’re looking at shutting off the power for safety.”
These outages don’t happen without notice. The companies are monitoring the weather conditions, and if a specific area is at risk, they will notify the users.
Castro said that as of October 12th, 30 Edison users in L.A. county suffered a public safety power shutoff outage and close to nine thousand of them were under consideration in the areas of Kern, Los Angeles and Ventura.
“About two days ahead of time, we send initial notification to customers and then one day ahead of time. We send updated notifications, including any updated timing information and then one to four hours ahead of time. We also provide our customers with resources for them to, you know, they can they can charge their batteries, they can pick up like Mac snacks, they can have water. We send out community crew vehicles and we also have community resource centers for anybody experiencing a PSP.”
Diane Castro is aware of the effects that these power outages have over their users.
“For customers that are energized due to the PSA test outages, we will attempt to restore power to these customers as soon as it is safe to do so. Once the winds abate and after our line, crews can inspect the lines to ensure that it’s safe to re-energize. And we absolutely realize that the shutoffs significantly impact our customers daily lives and create hardships for them and for our communities. So we make every attempt to reduce the number of customers that need to be impacted and to minimize the length of the outage and turn the power on as soon as it is safe to do so. With all that said, the typical restoration times ranged from three to eight hours after the circuit is cleared for inspection.
Regardless of intentional power outages, Deanna Contreras from PG&E believes that her users should be prepared for outages that are produced by natural causes.
“We do want our students, you know, who are our customers to always be prepared for possible power outages, even if it isn’t a past event. You know where we proactively turn off the power, but it could be, you know, Mother Nature related unplanned power outages due to a wind event or some other type of winter storm or other type of storm. So we want students to really take a look around their dorm rooms or their off campus living situation and see what requires power like. Do they have backup battery system for their computer if they have a test coming up or they have a lot of homework to do and there might be a storm coming in, there might be a peace on the horizon. What do they need to plan and prepare to get through without being without power for about 48 hours?”