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Edison taken to task in devastating 2011 San Gabriel Valley wind storm

January 14, 2013 |  2:17 pm

PHOTOS: Santa Ana winds wreak havoc across Southern California

A report issued by the California Public Utilities Commission on Monday found that some power poles maintained by Southern California Edison were faulty and too weak to withstand the gale-force winds that ripped across the San Gabriel Valley in 2011, leaving thousands of people without power for days.

The commission’s Consumer Protection and Safety Division found that at least 21 downed poles and 17 wire supports jointly operated by Edison and various telecommunications companies did not meet safety requirements.

“This could have been the result of inadequate design and construction, overloading, weakening due to cracks and cavities, down guy [wire] failures, or low fiber strength,” the report stated.

PHOTOS: Santa Ana winds wreak havoc across Southern California

Investigators concluded that Edison must update emergency procedures, test emergency response on a yearly basis, and review whether help from other agencies could speed up disaster repairs.

The wind storm on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2011, felled 248 wood poles and overheated 1,064 power conductors, according to the report.

More than 440,000 Edison customers temporarily lost power, with 226,053 customers experiencing simultaneous outages at the peak of the outage. It took Edison seven days to restore power to all of its customers.

In many cases, investigators reported finding that dry rot or termite damage had significantly weakened the poles. Other poles were taken out by falling trees and other objects picked up by sustained wind gusts of up to 120 mph.

The commission’s report also found that Edison’s emergency plans were not up to date prior to the incident, and some workers did not adhere to an established training schedule, according to the report.

A spokesman for Edison said a statement from the utility would be issued later in the day.

A study commissioned by Edison and released in April determined the utility had inadequate plans in place for emergencies and communicating with the public. The report, by Maryland-based Davies Consulting, also said the utility could have shortened power restoration time by one day or more by doing a better job of tracking and preparing for inclement weather.

At the same time, the consultants commended Edison having adequate staffing and managing a response that left no workers or customers injured.

Commission officials will work with Edison to implement the recommendations, according to a statement.

If Edison does not comply with recommendations, officials will consider a formal enforcement action that could include financial penalties.


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-- Joe Piasecki, Pasadena Sun

Photo: Children play on fallen tree after 2011 wind storm. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times