Calif utility apologizes for storm-related outage

AP News
Posted: Dec 19, 2011 4:17 PM
Calif utility apologizes for storm-related outage

The president of Southern California Edison is sending letters of apology to hundreds of thousands of people who were left without electricity _ some for as long as a week _ during a devastating windstorm last month.

Edison will do better next time when it comes to restoring power and keeping people informed about the efforts, president Ron Litzinger wrote, noting the company has learned from its experience.

"While our repair crews performed extraordinarily well, we will learn from the comments received from our customers during the past week to improve our response to similar events in the future," Litzinger wrote in the letters that began going out in the mail on Friday.

The state Public Utilities Commission has launched an investigation into Edison's response to the storm.

The letters were being mailed to all of the 430,000 Edison customers who lost power during the Nov. 30 storm that spawned wind gusts approaching 100 mph in some areas. An additional 213,000 homes and businesses served by other utilities also lost electricity.

"We would like to apologize for your inconvenience and thank you for your patience and understanding during this significant event," Litzinger wrote.

The crisis caused by the storm was unprecedented in Edison's history, company spokeswoman Vanessa McGrady said.

Hundreds of downed trees tangled dangerous high-voltage power lines and blocked streets, keeping repair trucks from reaching many hard-hit areas. Numerous uprooted trees remain on sidewalks and in gutters in some areas.

"A crisis of this magnitude we had never had before," she said.

Several San Gabriel Valley cities east of Los Angeles, including Pasadena, San Marino and Arcadia, suffered extensive damage. Three-quarters of the homes in Temple City, 15 miles east of Los Angeles, were without power at one point. Some didn't have it restored for a week.

As the power outage dragged on, people became increasingly critical of Edison, complaining that utility officials didn't let them know when power might be restored and why it was taking so long.

"You really need direct contact with those neighbors," county Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who represents the area, told utility officials. He said their efforts to get the word out through television were "stupid" because most people couldn't watch TV with the power out.

McGrady said Edison has since launched a Facebook page to keep people informed and is working on improving its own internal communications. The utility was already using Twitter.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Small Business Administration said it is making loans available to residents and business owners who had storm damage. The cost of repairs in the city of Pasadena alone has been estimated at $20 million.