LA CRESCENTA (CBSLA) – A powerful Santa Ana wind event could force Southern California Edison to shut off power to more than 270,000 customers across the Southland, less than a week after winds forced similar power shutoffs on Thanksgiving Day.
A SoCal Edison worker on Nov. 26, 2020. (CBSLA)
The Santa Ana event is expected to last from Wednesday to Saturday, with wind speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, the National Weather Service reports.
The strong winds, extremely low humidity and dry conditions, coupled with temperatures in the 70s, will create conditions ripe for wildfires.
A red flag warning is in effect from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 6 p.m. Friday for most of L.A. and Ventura counties. The red flag warning will last into Saturday night for the L.A. and Ventura County mountains, the Santa Clarita Valley and the Inland Empire.
The conditions could down trees and power lines, forcing SCE to potentially implement precautionary public safety shutoffs.
As of Wednesday morning, SCE reported that it could shut off power to 77,577 customers in Ventura County, 67,490 in Riverside County, 59,904 in San Bernardino County and 34,088 in Los Angeles County. To see if your address is in the shutoff area, click here.
On Thanksgiving Day, SCE was also forced to shut off power to thousands of customers. Among the areas which saw shutoffs were Simi Valley and Agua Dulce.
“We are working to limit the number of customers who are shutoff due to Public Safety Power Shutoffs,” said SCE Director Vik Trehan in a statement. “We know this is especially difficult for customers who lost power due to PSPS over the Thanksgiving holiday and who live in areas with high winds and increased wildfire threats. These PSPS are initiated to reduce the risk of wildfires and to protect communities from wildfire danger.”
Residents said they are frustrated, but understanding.
“If that’s what they have to do to stop the fires, then that’s what they have to do,” said Colin Waters, a Simi Valley Resident. “It’s crazy though.”
Colin Waters and his wife couldn’t cook their turkey last Thursday because their electricity was cut off at 10 a.m. Although it was inconvenient, he understands why it could happen again soon.
“This is a very windy area, where our house is, it really funnels right through here. It’s very windy,” he said.
Kristina Spencer and her husband weren’t happy when they got home from a trip the day after Thanksgiving. They will be home this week if and when another outage occurs.
“I opened the fridge, it smelled horrible,” she said. “I had just gone to Whole Foods and had to throw everything away, and that was really upsetting.”
Although Spencer knows it’s better to be safe than sorry, she said also hopes the utility could figure out a way to lessen the impact on customers.
“People have lives, especially working form home,” she said. “We should figure out how to make it so we can stay safe and leave the power on. If we need to move the power lines underground or what they need to do is put new power lines up, that should be the discussion.”
Beginning in August and lasting through October, there were several heat waves in California which sparked rolling blackouts for the first time since 2001, and helped contribute to the spread of a historic number of wildfires up and down the state which destroyed thousands of homes and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.
SCE notified California state regulators that its equipment may have been to blame for sparking the Silverado Fire, which broke out east of Irvine late last month, burning 13,400 acres and forcing more than 90,000 to evacuate their homes.
Also last month, Ventura County fire investigators reported that the Easy and Maria fires, which broke out in October of 2019, were both caused by electrical equipment failures. In the Easy Fire, SCE equipment was to blame, officials said.
In November of 2019, while the Easy and Maria fires were still burning, SCE reached a $360 million settlement admitting that its equipment was also responsible for starting the 2017 Thomas Fire and the 2018 Woolsey Fire.
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