Power Outages Continue to Generate Frustration

After an hourslong power outage closed several Foothill Boulevard businesses earlier this month, another extended outage last Friday also affected businesses along the boulevard and had La Cañada High School administrators debating whether to curtail the school day.
Starting at just past 6 a.m., two local electrical circuits were affected when a tree toppled onto a power line, Southern California Edison spokeswoman Mary Ann Milbourn said. She said the cause of the outage was a tree that fell onto a line on Berkshire Avenue east of Woodleigh Lane.
Because of that, 1,547 customers in an area encompassed by Berkshire, Devil’s Gate Reservoir and Encinas Drive were without power between 6:10 a.m. and 10:46 a.m., she said. For a shorter time, another 29 customers were affected in an area that encompassed Foothill, Georgian Road, Gould Avenue and Woodleigh.
“This happens,” Milbourn said. “Sometimes it’s wind, sometimes it’s drought-related. All the trees are so sick now, some of them just drop dead, and whenever they come in contact with lines, that causes a problem.”
As he stated at the latest City Council meeting, LCF Mayor Jonathan Curtis said he remains more interested in solutions for the outages than the cause of them, including another one that he said shuttered local restaurants because of intermittent outages Saturday.
Curtis said that in a recent meeting with LCF officials, SCE representatives admitted that their system is “inferior to other systems, not designed with the same reliability or redundancy that others are, such as in Glendale, San Diego and other cities.”
That’s a problem, Curtis said, especially for residents who live in the Flintridge neighborhood in the eastern portion of the city, which is affected by the majority of the outages.
“It’s not like, ‘Oh, well, just flip the switch so we can isolate the problem,’” said Curtis, who was waiting for SCE to respond to the city’s request for another meeting to discuss quality control. “It’s more like a tree, so if you hit this particular branch, that whole branch is going out. You can’t re-route it, you don’t have that type of redundancy. It’s an inferior system.
“But that does not excuse them from fixing [the problems] and providing reliable power, especially considering the rates they charge.”
He said he wants the utility to inspect and replace antiquated equipment, provide better redundancy or enact a combination of those measures.
On Friday, the outage was costly for businesses that had to close their doors and, in some cases, lost product.
Although Trader Joe’s, in the 470 block of Foothill, has a back-up generator, its refrigeration system went down. That meant that all of its items that are required to stay cold needed to be discarded, manager Ryan Gilger said. He said he couldn’t put a price tag on all those goods, but that the store was closed until 7 p.m. while his staff cleaned up.
“It wasn’t fun,” he said.
Down the boulevard, LCHS 7/8 Principal Jarrett Gold said the school lost power shortly after he showed up at 6 a.m. After SCE was contacted by phone, he said, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette decided to keep school open. Email updates went out to parents throughout the day as administrators kept a close eye on the temperatures within the classrooms on campus.
“It was a good thing it was kind of a cool day,” said Gold, who said the warmest any of the rooms got was 78 degrees.
Administrators considered shortening the school day, Gold said, but the power came on before they had to make that call.
“It was all hands on deck — everyone working collectively to make sure the kids were in good shape,” Gold said.
Curtis said LCF residents rely on that kind of can-do attitude, except when it comes to their power supplier.
“You look at the Sheriff’s [Department], the Fire [Department], all the people who really serve the citizens and who the citizens support,” he said. “This is the one … entity that just does not seem to be doing [what is] necessary.”

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