Anger grows over prolonged wind-related outages

AP News
Posted: Dec 07, 2011 3:44 AM
Anger grows over prolonged wind-related outages

Utility crews continued to work around the clock to restore power to thousands of San Gabriel Valley residents still in the dark one week after a ferocious windstorm wreaked havoc on the region as anger over the prolonged outages grew.

Some 6,500 customers remained without power late Tuesday, down from a high of more than 430,000 wind-related outages since the windstorm struck Nov. 30, Southern California Edison spokeswoman Lois Pitter Bruce said. She had no estimate on when power would be restored for those customers, but asked for patience. "This was an unprecedented windstorm," she said. "There are things we don't anticipate that impede our ability to make repairs."

Frustration may have reached the boiling point for a 72-year-old man who police said was arrested Tuesday after he made death threats against Pasadena city workers if they didn't restore his power. Geoffrey Commons was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats and released after posting $50,000 bond, Pasadena police Lt. Pete Hettema said.

Earlier Tuesday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich harshly criticized Edison for its response to the windstorm, in particular for its lack of direct communication with customers. Edison spokeswoman Veronica Gutierrez said the company was relying on the media.

"You really need direct contact with those neighbors. . The media only works if you have electricity. They need to turn on the television. So that's stupid," Antonovich said.

Also Tuesday, California Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from La Canada Flintridge, asked Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency so resources could be made available to residents.

The outages, caused mostly by downed trees, were centered in the San Gabriel Valley northeast of Los Angeles.

More northeasterly winds brought blasts as high as 60 mph in mountain passes and canyons Tuesday but overall the gusts were milder than anticipated, National Weather Service forecaster David Sweet said. Red flag warnings for extreme fire danger caused by dry winds were lifted.

"The main wind event is over," Sweet said, adding that as the gusts die down, temperatures will keep dropping.

However, more gusty winds were in the forecast for Friday, forecasters said.

Frigid temperatures were forecast again overnight for the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County coasts and valleys, the weather service said. A freeze warning was in effect for the Santa Ynez Valley and Ojai Valley and a frost advisory was in effect for the central and Santa Barbara County coast.

Temperatures in the low 30s also were forecast for the San Gabriel Valley.

A preliminary estimate put damage and cleanup costs from the winds last week at $3.8 million in areas serviced by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, spokesman Bob Spencer said. He noted the effort might take weeks to complete.