Some 300,000 power customers were without electricity in the Southland Thursday as powerful offshore winds, occasionally gusting to near 100 miles per hour, knocked down trees, utility poles and power lines and raised fears of wildfires.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the nation's biggest unicipal utility, reported 88,700 of its 1.4 million customers were without electricity as the sun rose Thursday. The hardest-hit communities reportedly were Playa del Rey, Westchester, Venice, El Sereno, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, Studio City, Sherman Oaks and Encino.Outages were also reported in the NoHo Arts District.
The city of Pasadena provided a measure of how disruptive the winds were when it declared a local emergency Thursday morning and urged both working adults and schoolchildren to stay home to avoid roads strewn with downed tree limbs and power lines. The Pasadena Unified School District has shuttered its schools.
Southern California Edison, which serves Southland customers outside Los Angeles, reported that 211,300 of its customers were without power as a result of outages that began Wednesday night. SCE spokeswoman Vanessa McGrady said the hardest hit areas were generally near the Foothill (210) Freeway and included Pasadena, Monrovia, Arcadia, Altadena, Sierra Madre and San Gabriel. Crews from both the DWP and SCE worked through the night to bring power back. The outages were believed to be affecting both residential and commercial customers.
At Los Angeles International Airport, an hourlong power outage starting around 7 p.m. Wednesday affected all passenger terminals and caused 20 inbound domestic flights and three international flights to be diverted to other area airports. Power was restored by 8 p.m. but delays lingered this morning, said LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles.
Airport officials faced a secondary challenge during the outage. Some airport tenants had failed to secure their equipment as requested, and containers rolled onto two runways on the south side of the airport, causing their temporary closure, Castles said.
The National Weather Service, citing the wind and low humidity, issued a red flag warning denoting wildfire conditions, effective until Friday evening. In doing so, it warned of sustained winds in the 45- to 60-mph range, gusting to around 85 mph
But the winds that kicked up beginning Wednesday night turned out to be even more powerful. Winds gusting at 97 mph were recorded in Whitaker Peak in the Los Angeles County portion of the San Gabriel Mountains, the weather service reported, adding that 67-mph gusts were monitored in Saugus while Malibu was being wracked by gusts of around 50 mph.
Weather service meteorologists said the "very strong offshore wind event'' affecting the region's mountain, forest, valley and coastal areas resulted from the alignment of two systems: a cold low-pressure system that came down the Nevada-California state line to combine with a buildup of strong surface-high pressure in the Great Basin.
"Close all windows and secure all outdoor objects, such as lawn furniture,'' a weather service advisory urged residents.
The risk of wildfire was considered so high that it prompted fire departments to take special precautions. In the city of Los Angeles, red flag parking restrictions were to be in effect from 8 a.m. Thursday until 8 a.m. Friday. The restrictions are intended to prevent parked cars on narrow streets from blocking emergency vehicles. To find out if you live in an area where parking is restricted, go to lafd.org/redflag/.
Along with issuing the parking restrictions, the Los Angeles Fire Department also bolstered its staffing to ensure rapid response. The beefed-up deployment ordered by Fire Chief Brian Cummings includes 18 additional engine companies, six brush patrols, one battalion command team, one water tender and one bulldozer strike team, said department spokesman Brian Humphrey.
Coinciding with fire-weather conditions, there will also be an extra 911 dispatcher at the department's communications center working alongside each battalion chief, and an officer assigned to coordinate swift and effective air operations, Humphrey said.
Los Angeles County, meanwhile, extended its contract for two firefighting SuperScooper aircraft for another week. The aircraft are leased from the government of Quebec in Canada, said Tony Bell of County Supervisor Mike Antonovich's office.
The SuperScoopers can carry up to 1,620 gallons of water and take only 12 seconds to scoop up water from a lake and inject it with a fire-resistant foam—a combination three times as effective as water alone, Bell said.
The SuperScoopers can get airborne in as few as five minutes and fly for three hours before they have to refuel.