YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

San Gabriel Valley still feeling effects of windstorm

Power outages stretch into a third day in several communities, and crews keep working to clear streets of downed trees and other debris.

December 04, 2011|By Hector Becerra and Sam Quinones, Los Angeles Times
  • Downed power lines and utility poles create an obstruction in the 9800 block of Live Oak Avenue in Temple City.
Downed power lines and utility poles create an obstruction in the 9800 block… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles County's most potent windstorm in recent years continued to dole out complications Saturday, depriving about 80,000 homes and businesses of power for a third day and sapping pre-holiday spirit in some foothill communities.

Nearly 74,000 Southern California Edison customers remained without power Saturday in about a dozen San Gabriel Valley communities, including Pasadena, Temple City, San Marino and Arcadia. Utility workers handed out flashlights, ice and bottled water to affected residents.

The storm — a meteorological mutation of typical Santa Ana winds — blasted the region with cold northerly winds instead of warm seasonal gusts, and it bowled over myriad trees and snapped power lines. At the wind event's peak, more than 400,000 customers throughout Los Angeles County lost power, about 235,000 of them in San Gabriel Valley cities.

Photos: Santa Ana winds

At night, large stretches of normally bustling commercial thoroughfares like Valley Boulevard were dim as cars crawled past dark traffic signals and closed gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants.

"This is probably the most severe windstorm event in terms of impact on the power grid in the last decade," said Gil Alexander, a Southern California Edison spokesman. "Looking at our history, this is one of the more significant ones."

Alexander said the utility hoped to return power to most homes by the end of Sunday, but he said crews were having problems reaching affected neighborhoods because of downed trees. Although the windstorm had moved away, he said it was possible that traditional Santa Ana winds could swoop in and aggravate the situation.

"We still see the potential for some ongoing wind damage," Alexander said. "We have more than 500 personnel involved in assessing the damage and working around the clock, so we're hopeful that most of our customers will have power restored by the end of the weekend."

Joe Ramallo, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, said service had been restored by Saturday evening to nearly all of its more than 200,000 customers who lost power because of the storm. But, he said, an additional 5,000 customers in San Pedro lost power Saturday. He said he was not sure whether that outage was related to weather.

Stuart Seto, a weather specialist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard, said there were some robust gusts Saturday, including winds clocked at nearly 50 mph in the Newhall Pass and in the mid-60s in the mountains.

Strong Santa Ana winds are expected to ramp up again Monday through Tuesday, though Seto said they were not predicted to be quite as forceful as the previous gusts. They are expected to come from the northeast, meaning they would sweep through San Fernando Valley communities and the Cajon and Newhall passes and spare the San Gabriel Valley from the most powerful gusts, which could top 60 mph.

"They'll still feel the gusty winds, but they won't feel them like before," Seto said of the already hard-hit communities. "When the winds were more northerly, they were coming right at them."

In towns such as Arcadia and South Pasadena, city crews worked to clear major streets of trees and other debris. City officials reminded motorists to treat blacked-out traffic signals like four-way stop signs. Some streets remained closed, as did the L.A. County Arboretum and several parks and libraries.

In Temple City, where about 75% of the town's roughly 10,000 homes had been without power, the situation has steadily improved, said Steven Masura, the city's community development director. About 3,700 homes were still without power early Saturday afternoon. Masura said he was hopeful that by Monday all would get electricity back.

Friday night, the city's big commercial corridor at Las Tunas Drive and Rosemead Boulevard was up and running after losing power during the storm.

"We're hoping that by late Sunday we'll be 99% up, but we don't know for sure," Masura said.

The windstorm created an uptick in patients at local hospitals. The emergency room at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena saw a 5% increase in patients Wednesday night through Friday night over the usual 170 patients it sees each day.

Several were injured in car accidents due to debris-strewn streets and nonworking traffic signals, said Dr. Robert Goldweber, assistant director of the hospital's emergency department. Emergency room staff also saw many elderly people who'd fallen in the dark. Some patients' oxygen generators failed.

"People needed oxygen and their oxygen generators went out. They didn't have the equipment they needed," Goldweber said.

A number of people came in with anxiety attacks, some that even produced chest pains.

"People were scared of more winds. They were already people with anxiety problems, who had more of it," he said.

Los Angeles Times Articles