SoCal Edison widens shutoff alerts to much of SCV amid 80 mph wind forecast

A girl reacts to high winds blowing her hair in Canyon Country on Wednesday, 122320. Dan Watson/The Signal

More than a quarter-million Southern California Edison customers, including a large portion of the Santa Clarita Valley, were added to the utility’s Public Safety Power Shutoff map Saturday, which indicated their power may be shut off, due to what meteorologists are calling “hurricane-force winds.”

Although the notices have become more regular recently for residents of Acton, Agua Dulce and Canyon Country, households from Agua Dulce to Stevenson Ranch, and as far south as Newhall, were recently added to the PSPS monitoring process. 

A SoCal Edison representative said Saturday he could not provide the number of residents within the SCV that are being affected, instead directing residents to the utility’s website to see the overall county total. He also could not provide specific street- or intersection-based boundaries for PSPS zones, instead directing customers to input their address on their website to see if they’re individually being affected — or if they can tell from the monitoring and outage map whether their home falls within one of the highlighted zones.

“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.”

On Friday, Edison officials indicated large portions of Canyon Country in the northern and eastern areas were being monitored. A large area northeast of Sand Canyon in Acton had experienced shutoffs, but power remained on for a majority of those being monitored late Friday afternoon in Canyon Country.

SoCal Edison officials said they didn’t have an exact number of SCV residents being monitored, instead reporting at approximately 1:30 p.m. Friday, 66,891 of the utility’s 5 million customers were notified of a possible PSPS over the weekend.

By noon Saturday, that countywide figure grew to 251,944, or approximately 5% of their total customers, but only 63 residents in Los Angeles County had seen their power shut off so far. The SoCal Edison website states that the PSPS monitoring procedure could be in place for most areas until at least Tuesday.

“Some customers are facing multiple continual high wind days,” said Reggie Kumar, a spokesman for SoCal Edison. “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.”

Since 2017, SoCal Edison has implemented power safety shutoffs in areas they believe are a high fire danger due to weather and surrounding fuel type. 

“Winds combined with continued dry vegetation will bring the risk of wind driven wildfires to areas in Southern California, particularly in the foothill and urban interface areas,” said Kumar. 

Kumar added that although Southern California received some precipitation in the last few days of 2020, fuel samples taken by SoCal Edison indicate that much of the southland’s vegetation remains “unseasonably dry and ripe for larger fires during this windy period.”

Areas such as Lyons Avenue in Newhall, which is lined largely with parks, restaurants, homes and little vegetation, were also marked for possible PSPS’s due to them being powered by lines that reside further away, but in fire danger areas, Handgi said. 

“There could be an area that is going through a high fire area that is an area of concern that serves in another area,” said Handgi. “And to avoid the risk of fire will be forced to de-energize that area.”  

Multiple weather systems are rolling into the SCV through Wednesday, according to Joe Sirard, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, with some winds having the potential to reach anywhere from 60-80 mph by Tuesday night.

“If you think the winds are strong today, wait until then,” said Sirard on Saturday. “Unfortunately, it looks like there will be a lot of tree limbs that would likely go down, there could be power outages, and it looks like a pretty major wind event at this point.”

The SCV is currently under an NWS wind advisory until 3 p.m. Sunday, but Sirard said 40-50 mph winds will pick up once again by Monday morning, and by Tuesday have evolved into a relatively rare phenomena for the region that he compared to “local hurricane force winds.”

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

Sirard said that offshore Santa Ana winds are not extremely rare during this time of area, but did say that 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,” said Sirard. “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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