A planned service outage by SoCal Edison for Saturday night was stopped in its tracks by Mission Canyon resident Peter Marin, more often known as an outspoken partisan for Santa Barbara’s homeless community. In a sharp email addressed to Rondi Guthrie, Edison’s government and public affairs manager, Marin asked why, in the face of 105 to 109 temperature forecasts for his foothill community, the planned outage had not been cancelled. Pointing out the largely electricity-supplied public warning systems, he raised the potential for fire and the need for warnings, and also the need for residents to keep their houses cool, calling it a game of Russian roulette with citizens’ lives.
Marin knows the ropes in these battles, and he included city and county officials on his email, the Office of Emergency Management among them. In turn, Rob Lewin, who heads the office for the county, said he contacted Edison this morning and asked that the outage be postponed until the extreme weather had abated. Last week, Lewin said he’d held a meeting with Edison and representatives of nearby jurisdictions to discuss another plan that also worries Peter Marin: outages during high wind events to prevent fire from loose electrical lines.
Edison turned off the power in Idyllwild when ferocious winds were forecast after the Thomas Fire had started in December 2017. Though Edison isn’t yet explaining its thresholds for these outages, at the June 26 meeting, the county had a chance to discuss the randomness of sundowners and to urge cooperation and coordination, said Lewin. It’s not just landlines in homes that would be affected, he said. Cell towers, water systems, lift stations, and myriad other essential bits of infrastructure could also be without power.
Marin said he learned 800 residences had been slated to lose electricity in his Foothill Road neighborhood and another 200 in the Elings Park area. His concern extended to the homeless, who, as far as he knew, were not being offered drinking water or specific cooling locations, other than the PATH shelter. “This is amazing to me,” Marin said, “since we know days like this are going to come more and more often.”
Edison’s Scheduled Maintenance Outage webpage shows that a service interruption was planned to begin on Saturday at 8 p.m. through to Sunday at 4 a.m. The de-energizing was to protect the line crews doing routine maintenance, which Edison stated was needed to prevent unplanned outages, which take longer to locate and repair. “SCE understands power outages are inconvenient, especially during hot weather, and SCE appreciates its customers’ patience,” the company’s statement said. The crews completed today’s work quickly, and the Saturday-Sunday maintenance was cancelled.