Windstorm Practice for Earthquake Response

A powerful earthquake would bring down power just as last month's windstorms did. Was utility response adequate?

Windstorms that brought gusts in excess of 100 mph to Southern California were real-life drills for earthquake preparedness for Southland utility companies, some of whose customers were in the dark for a week after the storm.

More than 400,000 Southern California Edison customers were without power after the storm, prompting questions and suggestions of outage prevention.

Some have suggested putting telephone lines underground, but this possibility is also very expensive, Edison president Ronald Litzinger told NBCLA.

“I think for the most part, most of our protocols worked well,” he said.

The aftermath of a windstorm and an earthquake are similar electrically, said Southern California Edison president Ronald Litzinger. Both acts of nature would result in power going down at once, whereas during a heat or rain storm, outages would occur staggered.

Lessons learned during last month’s historic windstorm will improve the company’s earthquake preparedness, which they practice, Litzinger said.

Among his critiques, Litzinger said communication with customers and restoration times estimates could have been better.

“People make plans based on those estimates,” he said. “In hindsight, we could have been more conservative on those estimates.”

The California Public Utilities Commission has launched an investigation into SEC’s response.

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