The pictures of flooded streets and streaming mudflows tell it all: this could be the worst winter storm Northern California has seen in a decade.
Along the streets of Half Moon Bay, crews are working to restore power to those still in the dark. Amid the utility trucks, residents can see the unfamiliar yellow and green logo of Southern California Edison, crews that were requested by local utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to help in a mutual assistance effort.
Leading the 20 four-man SCE crews is John Perry, a principal manager working out of the utility’s San Joaquin District. He and most of the crews from various work locations made the eight-hour trek up Interstate 5 Monday and began working to safely restore power Tuesday morning. Their work will likely take about one week depending on the weather.
“Our sense is that there will be a lot of pole and wire down events. The unknown terrain is a major factor,” said Perry, noting that a new slew of storms were heading into the area today and Wednesday.
A former lineman, Perry and several of his crew members have been called to major restoration events during the past year, largely due to the wildfires in Southern California. Their experience will help in this latest effort.
“As linemen, this work gets into your blood … the pride, the camaraderie and sense of accomplishment,” he said. “Helping people.”
SCE crews are up north helping to repair damage sustained during the massive storms, in which debris, fallen trees and mud brought down lines and poles. Crews will replace fallen power lines, fallen poles and perform other work necessary to restore power to residents and businesses.
PG&E made the request as part of the Western Region Mutual Assistance Group (WRMAG), a group of utilities that reach out to other companies to help restore power in times of need.
“There is a general spirit of cooperation, a need to help our peer utilities,” said Terry Ohanian, the SCE principal manager overseeing this latest mutual assistance effort. “Our crews like helping those in need. There are few things more rewarding.”
Rains are also forecast for Southern California this week, but on a much smaller scale than the northern areas. In recent rains, SCE did experience heavy rains and flooding, but the system held up well. Still, Ohanian notes SCE has enough crews available and on standby in case local rains result in outages for SCE customers.
“We can cover any trouble we experience here with rapid response. If the situation changes, we can always bring our crews back,” he said, noting that SCE has about 500 SCE and contract personnel available to them. “This [assistance effort] will not change our ability to respond to local outages or problems day or night.”
Storm Safety Tips:
- Downed trees and mudslides may have damaged electrical lines. If you come across any downed wires, stay away and call 911.
- Wet yards with puddles on cement and grass can carry electricity. If a line is down in your yard, remain indoors and call 911 immediately.
- Make sure you have a battery-operated radio and flashlights. Check the batteries to make sure they’re fresh. Use flashlights for lighting during a power outage. Do not use candles because they pose a significant fire hazard.
- If you use a generator, place it outdoors and plug individual appliances directly into it, using heavy-duty extension cords. Connecting generators directly to household circuits creates “backfeed,” which is dangerous to repair crews.
- Beware during flooding. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down and 2 feet can sweep your vehicle away.
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