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Man arrested for threatening utility workers

December 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Hundreds of people were still without electricity Wednesday, a week after hurricane-force winds knocked out utilities.

One Pasadena man frustrated over delays was arrested for allegedly threatening utility workers.

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Geoffrey Commons, 73, faces a felony charge for making criminal threats at Pasadena City Hall on Tuesday. According to Lt. Phlunte Riddle of the Pasadena Police Department, Commons used profanity and said he was going to "get his rifle and come back and kill all electrical power people if he didn't get his power restored."

Commons was back home on Wednesday after posting $50,000 bail. He denies making the threat.

"That's not true. I don't own a rifle, don't own a gun, never owned a gun, never shot a gun," he said.

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Commons said he was angry because he cares for two elderly in-laws who have had no heat during near-freezing overnight temperatures. He said the city lied when they told him his power would be back on earlier this week.

"I'm facing five years in jail because I'm an angry citizen," Commons said.

Workers in Commons' neighborhood had no choice but to string power lines to trees as a quick fix.

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

"Having a hard time getting poles as fast as we need them, so we're utilizing basically Mother Nature at this point," said Mike Kemp of Pasadena Water and Power.

Authorities are urging residents to be patient as crews work to restore power.

"Please understand that the city is working diligently and as quickly as possible, but not to threaten your neighbors, not to threaten city employees, because then the police will become involved," Riddle said.

At 10 p.m., 543 Southern California Edison customers were without power in the greater San Gabriel Valley region. All the wires were back on the poles, but crews went street to street to check connections.

SCE officials say they're working around the clock to restore power, but they say last week's winds were so unprecedented, it's taking them longer to get the job done.

The California Public Utilities Commission announced Wednesday it was investigating the prolonged power outages in the SCE service area caused by the windstorm.

"We will determine whether SCE met all safety requirements and did all it could to prevent outages, and that it is now doing all it can to restore power and communicate with its customers," Clanon said. "If we determine that SCE has violated safety rules, it may face fines and penalties," said CPUC Executive Director Paul Clanon.

Southern California Edison said in a statement the company will cooperate fully with the investigation .

"Some of our customers are upset, and we aren't happy either. I'm committed to thoroughly examining what happened every step of the way and creating ways to improve our response in the future," SCE President Ron Litzinger said.

At a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Edison officials tried explaining the delays, but were met with anger by Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

"With 419,000 customers, it's nearly impossible to get to every single customer, so we try to use the media in that respect, we tried to get the word out," Veronica Gutierrez, director of public affairs for SCE, told the Board.

Antonovich responded by saying, "The media only works if you have electricity, if you turn on the television. So that's stupid."

Tuesday night, many residents who had their power restored tried to help their neighbors by stringing power across streets with extension cords, so they could watch some TV.

For those whose property was damaged from the winds, they may be entitled to a temporary tax break if the damage exceeds $10,000. You'll need to file a claim within a year from now.

Residents can report wind-related damages to the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management's disaster hotline 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.

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