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County supervisors criticize SCE for response

December 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday criticized Southern California Edison about its response to the outage, saying the utility was unprepared and slow to get information to customers.

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About 7,500 SCE customers were still without power six days after powerful winds pummeled Southern California. Many residents have expressed anger over delays on getting their power back on and debris still sitting in the road.

SCE expected to have power back to all its customers by 8 p.m. Monday, but it didn't meet that mark. SCE said efforts were hampered by the large amounts of downed trees and power lines. The windstorm also caused many transformers to blow.

"The silent voice in all of this has been Edison," Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said, after discussing county efforts to clear fallen trees and debris.

Antonovich accused the utility of not planning ahead, saying it had been slow to get information to customers, gave out inaccurate information and left many residents frustrated and unsure about what to do during the disaster.

"This storm has certainly been unprecedented in our experience," Veronica Gutierrez, director of public affairs for SCE, told the Board.

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Gutierrez said the utility tried to reach customers through the media, by calling them on battery-powered cellphones and sending representatives door-to-door.

"There should have been police cars, sheriff's cars out there with loudspeakers letting people know what was going on," suggested Supervisor Don Knabe.

Gutierrez said 276 SCE crews were working to repair damage and restore service.

Los Angeles County and several cities, including Alhambra, Arcadia, Glendora, Monrovia South Pasadena, Pasadena, San Gabriel, San Marino, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena and Temple City, declared a state of emergency.

Pasadena Water and Power says there are still 200 to 500 residents still without electricity.

Many residents in Temple City are still in the dark and wondering why it's taking so long for crews to restore power.

"I've lived in Temple City 50 years, off and on, and this is the worst I've ever seen," said resident Fernando Vizcarra.

San Gabriel resident Paul Kwo is one of thousands who hasn't had power since Wednesday, and he said SCE is not giving him any straight answers.

See safety tips to follow in case of a power outage.

"The fact that you can't give a real answer, and you're just leaving me here, wondering in the dark ... when is my power going to be back on, that's what's really frustrating me," Kwo said.

Pat Richards of Arcadia said she was disappointed in the city. She just got power back in her house on Monday night.

"It's been an eye opener about how the city of Arcadia has been operating," she said.

Richards said she was told that the trees on Colorado Boulevard couldn't be removed on Sunday because Public Works doesn't work on Sundays.

One roadway in Arcadia was virtually impassable until Monday because of debris. Residents say they don't understand why there wasn't more done to help.

Acadia City Manager Don Penman said the destruction of last week's storm was devastating, with damage estimates likely to soar past $2 million, and getting to everyone takes time.

"We're asking them to be as patient as possible, but we do understand their frustration," Penman said.

The city said the parks and golf course were cleared before the streets because they are owned by the county.

Temple City resident Steven S. Tyre said he understands that the city and the utility are doing everything they can to get the power back up.

"When a natural disaster occurs, there's really nothing you can do," he said.

Residents can report wind-related damages to the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management's disaster hot line at 211 or (800) 980-4990.

Customers without power can call SCE customer service at (800) 655-4555. SCE is offering help to families in need during the widespread outages.

See photos of wind damage across Southern California.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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