Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fire Danger: Possible Power Outages in the Future


Nearly a year after the second devastating fire in San Diego County in the past half decade, our local utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (for whom my dad worked for over thirty years), has decided to turn off power in the case of high Santa Ana winds.

That sounds like a good idea, especially after last year's fires were the direct result of downed power lines, but 35 mph winds are extremely common around here. We've had winds at 60 mph several times per year, and the winds usually last for two to three days at a time. I can't imagine being without power (and losing all our food in the fridges) several times each year. Yes, some other circumstances must also be present -- humidity below 20%, etc., but these winds are SO common that I believe that this decision that allows the utility to help cover their rather large behind will be of a great detriment to us mountain-dwellers. To see the entire story,
please click here.

SAN DIEGO – San Diego Gas & Electric Co. announced Thursday that it will shut off power lines in backcountry areas of San Diego County that are considered high-risk areas for wildfires during extreme weather conditions.

The proposal was outlined in a letter that the utility plans to send Friday to about 45,000 customers living in the highest fire-risk areas. The letter also outlines other steps the utility, which has 1.4 million customers, has taken to reduce the potential for wildfires.

A report released by Cal Fire in July said that arcing SDG&E lines ignited the Witch Creek, Guejito and Rice Canyon fires, three of the most devastating wildfires that raced across the county last October.

The letter said that five conditions would have to be met before power is turned off, and the utility anticipates that would happen “as infrequently as one time or less per year.” An estimated 1,000 to 10,000 customers would likely be affected at one time, and outages generally would be 12 to 72 hours, although that could be as short as several hours, the letter said.

I simply can't imagine being without power during a time of fire danger. In the back country, being without power also means being without water, as the wells won't pump without electricity. For a lot of people without corded phones, they also won't have phone service. In addition, we'll be without Internet service. So without the Internet, TV, and phones, our only method of alert will be through battery-operated radios, which in our valley rarely get reception. We do have one corded phone that we bring downstairs from our bedroom in emergencies, but still, I can only hope and pray that SDG&E will indeed alert us before taking us off the grid and that they will do so only under the most serious of fire conditions, not just 35 mph winds that happen so commonly.

Of course, the San Diego Union also released a report stating that there are three real fire DANGER areas in the county, and we live smack in the middle of one since our area hasn't burned since the Laguna Fire of October 1970. We just had a lovely rainfall this weekend that we hope will take care of any fire danger for this season, but October is always a time of uneasiness amongst us mountain-dwellers as we come up to the first anniversary of the Witch Fire and the fifth anniversary of the Cedar Fire, the latter of which caused us to be evacuated for four days just before Halloween. We won't truly breathe easy until the November rains at last descend upon our little town which is surrounded by national forest on all four sides.

2 comments:

mainpowerconnect said...

Disasters, Fire Danger, Wind Storms, We’ve seen the after-effects, entire communities without power!

Here are some tips on how to safely restore power due to unexpected power outages and safely use emergency generators.

How to Choose the Right Emergency Electric Generator
http://www.mainpowerconnect.com/static3/howto.asp

How to Safely Operate a Portable Generator and Transfer Switch
http://www.mainpowerconnect.com/static3/index.asp

Generator Safety Frequently Asked Questions
http://www.mainpowerconnect.com/static3/faq.asp

Karen said...

Getting a generator is a great idea and would be something I'd put on my priority list, for sure.
It just means "being prepared" a bit more than you might otherwise be. I think it's crazy too, but like you said, they're just trying to cover their own back side.

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