As Southern California Edison’s chief issued a formal apology Wednesday to people without electricity after last week’s windstorms, the California Public Utilities Commission announced that it’s investigating the prolonged power outages. Some in the San Gabriel Valley were still in the dark Wednesday after six days.
Last week’s winds left a storm of frustration in their wake. Richard Roberts is a South Pasadena father of three who teaches chemistry at USC.
"A friend of mine loaned me a generator on Saturday," Roberts said, "so I managed to get that hooked up to my heating stystem yesterday, so the house is not 50 anymore, but it was 50 until yesterday. And so we eat out and take the kids to my mother-in-law's for showers and write a lot of notes to school about how homework can’t be done because we don’t have any lights or power."
Roberts said he was extremely frustrated. "I’ve been calling So Cal Edison. I have called them at least 20 times. I have asked to speak to a supervisor at least 10 times. Many times I’m put on hold forever."
Roberts and his family kept waiting.
Southern California Edison crews have worked around the clock since the storm. Edison’s Veronica Gutierrez said the extent of the damage took the utility by surprise.
“When you look at this storm, you had 430,000 out," Gutierrez said. "Within two days, we got 400,000 up. So everything was going smoothly those first two days, right up until Saturday morning. We had 30,000 folks that had more severe damage, we’re finding that out.”
Guiterrez said workers are prioritizing repairs. First, circuits with hospitals, then circuits that reach the largest number of customers without electricity. Last in line are the smaller circuits that affect individuals like Richard Roberts and his family.
"One time I was told by the call center that basically my circuit was a low priority because not so many people were affected," Roberts said. "And I said that would be great if you at least told me that you didn’t plan to start working on this until Tuesday, maybe I could put my kids and family in a hotel, but they keep telling us every 12 to 24 hours that it’s going to be back on, and it’s not."
Beyond Edison territory, municipally-owned Pasadena Water and Power serves people like Carter Fisk. He and his wife work from their rented home. He said they’ve managed this last week by hunkering down at local cafes for Internet connections and power, visiting Kinko’s to print documents and eating every meal out.
None of that, he said, frustrates him as much as the lack of solid information. "No one seems to know anything," Fisk said. "Which is frustrating because I’d rather just have someone tell me, listen, it’s going to be another five days, rather than saying, I don’t know anything. And I don’t know where anyone is."
Pasadena Water and Power spokeswoman Erica Rolufs says crews that were committed to the widespread power outages are focusing now on the fewer than 150 customers — like Fisk — who still didn’t have electricity yesterday.