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Storm spotlights city's power problems

Damage to local grid occurred even as Edison was working to upgrade it.

December 14, 2011|By Sara Cardine

In the wake of the powerful windstorm that downed trees and power lines, the streets of La Cañada Flintridge are telling a tale of recovery and reconstruction.

Though power had been restored in most of the city, a number of homes remained connected to seven temporary generators parked on Woodleigh Lane, Foxwood Road and Alta Vista Drive last weekend. City officials were on site at the most heavily damaged areas, working directly with representatives from Southern California Edison, which had more than 1,000 employees working to make repairs and restore power to homes and businesses.

The California Public Utilities Commission officials said they have begun an investigation into the cause of the prolonged power outage and the length of time it took Edison to communicate its emergency response and return safety-related calls from customers and elected officials.

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The investigation will include interviews with Edison employees, a review of inspection reports, and surveys of areas where lines came down. If it finds that Edison violated any safety regulations in its response to the outage, the utility provider could be expected to pay fines and penalties, CPUC Executive Director Paul Clanon said in a statement last week.

“SCE has a duty to provide safe and reliable service to its customers and we have a duty to make sure SCE is doing all it can to fulfill that mandate,” Clanon added.

Edison spokesman Ronald Garcia said his company will be taking a hard look at its internal processes.

“We’re now wrapping it up, [figuring out] lessons learned and talking to people about what their expectations were so we can ensure continued improvement,” he said, adding that the Nov. 30 - Dec. 1 storm was the worst he’s seen in 44 years with the company. “In the next few days, we’re going to assemble in groups and talk about what we experienced and what we can do better.”

A number of residents questioned whether the city’s current energy infrastructure is sufficient to support the increased number — and size — of homes built in recent decades.

JPL electrical engineer Ali Ghaneh said he hopes city officials will work with Edison to create better means of pinpointing problems and their causes so customers won’t be the first line of reporting in a disaster.

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