Windaggedon continues; nearly 200,000 homes, businesses still without power in Southland today

Daily News Wire Services
Posted: 12/02/2011 06:29:11 AM PST

LOS ANGELES – Nearly 200,000 homes and businesses remained without power in the greater Los Angeles area today, and thousands of students stayed home for the second straight day, but the windstorm that disrupted thousands of lives died down hours earlier than expected.

Just how disruptive the windstorm turned out to be was illustrated by the Los Angeles Fire Department, which reported that it responded to 2,197 incidents during the 24-hour period ending at 11:59 p.m. Thursday compared to to 1,022 incidents during a normal day.

A cold low-pressure system over Arizona continued to churn up strong north-to-northeast offshore winds this morning, but the winds then abated considerably, the National Weather Service said.

As a result, a red flag warning denoting a high risk of wildfire because of strong winds and low humidity was canceled mid-morning. It had been scheduled to expire at 3 p.m. in most areas but at 6 p.m. in the San Gabriel Mountains, the Angeles National Forest and the Santa Clarita Valley.

Still, “the potential exists for another round of gusty northeast winds Saturday afternoon into Sunday over Los Angeles and Ventura counties, with very low humidities,” according to an NWS advisory.

Another red flag warning for much of the area will take effect at 6 a.m. Saturday and last until 2 p.m. Sunday.

Thursday’s winds — the worst seen in the region in decades, according to Southland firefighters and repair crews –uprooted trees, sheared off thousands of tree limbs and caused high-power lines to topple, wreaking havoc with power supplies throughout the Southland.

At last count, 62,000 customers were without power in Los Angeles, 35,000 less than late Thursday, said Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokesman Joseph Ramallo. While the outages were citywide, the hardest-hit communities were Venice, Westchester, Hollywood, Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Los Feliz.

Southern California Edison, which serves most Southland customers outside Los Angeles, reported that about 135,000 of its customers were without power this afternoon.

Crews from both the DWP and SCE again worked through the night to end the outages, which were affecting both residential and commercial customers. But Edison officials said affected customers should be prepared to be without electricity at least through today, and the DWP advised customers to be prepared to be without power for 24 to 48 hours.

“Crews will continue to work around the clock until power is restored,” Bruce said.

A similarly intense cleanup effort is expected on streets made impassable by downed tree limbs or uprooted trunks.

“We are thankful that, as serious as the storm was, and as much damage as it left in its wake, there was no loss of life,” Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck said, adding that cleanup could take several weeks in his city, which appeared to have been particularly hard-hit.

Pasadena, one of several cities to declare a local emergency Thursday, reported that all its major streets were accessible, as were half of its secondary and residential streets. And just under 1,000 Pasadena Water and Power customers remained without power, Beck said.

Pasadena city officials Thursday “red-tagged” 42 residences — houses and apartments — as unsafe for occupancy, said Pasadena Emergency Management Coordinator Lisa Derderian. She noted some buildings can have units that are red-tagged and others not.

In San Marino, most of which was without electricity Thursday night, 11 homes were red-tagged, police said, and the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens remained closed today.

The Pasadena Unified School District canceled classes, after-school programs, events and sports-related activities at all campuses for the second day today. But district officials said all district employees are expected to report today to prepare for the reopening of schools on Monday.

Also closed today were 18 Los Angeles Unified School District schools with no power and the schools of the Alhambra, Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Duarte, La Canada, Monrovia, San Gabriel, South Pasadena and Temple City unified school districts. Most schools were expected to re-open Monday.

Also closed today was Griffith Park, one of North America’s largest urban parks, at more than 4,300 acres. L.A. Recreation and Parks General Manager Jon Kirk Mukri ordered the closure Thursday because of downed trees and the danger of additional damage from continuing gusts. It was expected to re- open tomorrow.

In Glendale, wind gusts caused damage Thursday to The Americana at Brand’s 100-foot-tall Christmas tree, though the mall remained open for business.

In Los Angeles, red flag parking restrictions expired at 8 a.m. today. The restrictions are intended to prevent parked cars on narrow streets from blocking emergency vehicles.