Power shutoffs return to Canyon Country amid 80 mph wind forecast

A man up-rights his trash can after high winds knocked it over on Steinway Street in Canyon Country on Wednesday, 122320. Dan Watson/The Signal

Hundreds of Canyon Country residents were left without power Monday morning as the strongest wind event of the season hit the Santa Clarita Valley.

Southern California Edison customers across the SCV were added to the Public Safety Power Shutoff map Saturday, indicating their power may be shut off in the coming days, due to what meteorologists are calling “hurricane-force winds.”

Both a Red Flag and high wind warning are in effect for the SCV from Monday through Wednesday morning, according to National Weather Service meteorologists.

Power had been shut off to approximately 1,600 L.A. County residents Monday, including parts of Canyon Country along Sierra Highway, with estimated restoration 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to Edison. 

SoCal Edison officials said they didn’t have an exact number of SCV residents being monitored, though more than 68,600 L.A. County customers remained under a PSPS warning Monday, including much of the SCV, with residents from Agua Dulce to Stevenson Ranch, north to Castaic and south to Newhall set to remain under PSPS consideration until weather conditions improved, per Edison’s map.

“We want our customers to be prepared for PSPS, and one of the best ways to do that is to sign up for the alerts,” said Jim Handgi, a spokesman for Edison, on Saturday. “If it is predicted that there may be conditions that cause a PSPS, Edison will notify those customers.”

RaNae Seaton has been one of the many Canyon Country residents whose power has been shut off almost every time the PSPS warnings have gone out this past year. 

“Just before Thanksgiving, it was a 36-hour power outage, and then just before Christmas, it was a 16-hour power outage. (Now) it’s gone off this morning at 10 o’clock,” Seaton said Monday, adding that she expects her power to be out until Wednesday. 

“I can’t go sit in a restaurant or a sports bar to charge things and pass the time, so to speak, because there’s a pandemic going on and we’re not supposed to go anywhere, so it’s just a really frustrating time because we’re just between a rock and a hard spot,” she added.

While Seaton understands the reasoning for the outages, as a 19-year resident of the area, she doesn’t understand why, if there’s been bad wind previously, there needs to be outages now. 

“It’s concerning,” she added. “I mean, we’re just at their mercy. And by the way, I don’t appreciate that they get to decide when I have power and when I don’t.” 

Another area resident agreed, adding that it’s frustrating to see only a third of his condominium complex’s power shut off.

“Canyon Country is just getting pounded,” said Ed Nicewicz, referring to the amount of outages the area has experienced versus the rest of the SCV. 

Nicewicz, who’s lived in the area for 30-plus years, said Edison has otherwise done a terrific job through earthquakes, mudslides, floods and fires.

“They’re second to none in taking care of emergencies and general maintenance — but this is so erratic; so you just don’t know when your power is going to shut down,” he added. “And psychologically and mentally, it’s hard not knowing when (it’ll be turned back on).” 

Though L.A. County Board of Supervisors recently passed a motion aimed at reducing the amount of PSPS, Edison has been implementing these types of power safety shutoffs in areas they believe are a high fire danger due to weather and surrounding fuel type since 2017.

“While extended outages are possible, we will make every effort to temporarily restore power to affected customers, even for a short period of time, as breaks in the weather conditions permit and it is safe to re-energize,” said Reggie Kumar, a spokesman for SoCal Edison. 

These winds, combined with the dry vegetation, bring an increased risk of wind-driven wildfires, Edison and NWS meterologists agree. 

Multiple weather systems are rolling into the SCV through Wednesday, according to NWS meteorologist Rich Thompson, with winds peaking in strength Tuesday and Tuesday night, as winds have the potential to reach anywhere from 60-80 mph by Tuesday night.

These strong, damaging winds are expected 10 p.m. Monday evening to 4 a.m. Wednesday, evolving into a relatively rare phenomena for the region that Joe Sirard, a meteorologist at the NWS, compared to “local hurricane-force winds.”

“Monday night and Tuesday (is projected to have) gusts of 60 to 70 miles an hour,” Sirard said. “And it would not be out of the question to have a few isolated wind gusts of up to 80 mph.”

While Santa Ana winds are not rare during this time of year, Sirard said this type of “unusually strong wind event” happens “only every 5 to 10 years.”

“Be prepared for the possibility of extended power outages, tree limbs falling into homes, there could be damage to your roof,” Sirard said. “Think of damage that could happen at high wind events and that’ it’s almost likely, at this point, we’re going to have widespread damage.”

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