SDG&E cuts power in east county as north county burns

SDG&E power lines were blamed for part of the wildfires in the disastrous fires of 2007. After Tuesday’s fire, SDG&E decided to be pro-active, and when the winds started to kick up Wednesday morning in the east county, customers began to lose power. But first, as of 6pm Tuesday evening, SDG&E says 7,200 customers are without electric power. The power outages began early Wednesday morning in east San Diego County – no where near the Carlsbad or north county fires. Because high winds can blow electrical wires close to each other, ARC and SDG&E decided to be proactive and cut off some power circuits in high-prone fire areas to prevent another disaster.

At 6am, the utility began de-energizing some of its circuits; in other words, they cut off the power in the Cuyamaca, Decanso and Boulder Creek areas with a small number of customers, 84, losing power.

At 8am, another circuit was cut in the Julian, Pine Hill, east Ramona and Wynona areas, affecting 377 more customers.

At 9am, another 720 customers lost power in the Alpine, Viejas and west Decanso areas. Again, the shut-downs were not caused by fire, but by weather conditions – primarily high winds. But those proactive outages are of great concern to County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

“I put them on notice that if they are proactively shutting off people’s electricity in the back country – where people need electricity to get water out of the ground, out of their wells – and if there is not an imminent threat to public safety, that they may be causing a worse threat by thinking that they are averting a threat.”

Not long after, these circuits were shut off, fires began to breakout up north. In the Carlsbad area, the flames, heat and winds caused several transmission lines – the large power lines that transport electricity from area to area, rather than from a pole to the house. Some of these lines heated up and tripped offline. Electric power was lost to more than 3,000 customers, including LEGOland, which had to shut down.

By 1:30pm Wednesday afternoon, more than 9,600 SDG&E customers were without power as the outages piled up. Nearly two hours later, at 3:15pm, SDG&E had to put out a call for customers to conserve power. The fires and the weather conditions began to affect the utility’s major transmission infrastructure – meaning apparently more lines might be tripped. It’s possible SDG&E might have to cut power in the vicinity of the fires that continue to burn if the situation gets worse.

The good news is by 4pm, SDG&E crews had managed to restore power to about 2,400 customers. The utility has also pre-staged observers to monitor lines and the weather. They also hired several fire crews and pre-staged them in fire-prone areas. And a generator was put in place in downtown Julian, in case the downtown area lost power.

Going forward, crews will continue the restoration of power, and this could go on for some time as these fires continue to burn. And like the Fire Department, SDG&E will continue to monitor weather conditions, adjusting to circumstances as they arise. SDG&E also has natural gas crews in some of these areas just in case fire officials need gas lines to be shut off. There’s always the chance a gas line may rupture with all the equipment out there; those crews will remain until fire officials say those areas are safe.

Categories: KUSI