Advertisement

What to do to prepare for possible power outages during winter storms

Rain clouds shroud the skyline of downtown Los Angeles on a rainy day.
Rain clouds shroud the skyline of downtown Los Angeles. The powerful storm could result in power outages.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Share

Intense rain and high winds from Hurricane Hilary will probably mean power outages this week for some Californians.

The National Weather Service said that widespread flooding, downed trees and hillside collapses were also likely. The third atmospheric river to slam the state in two weeks is expected to bring winds of up to 60 mph and drop more than 6 inches of rain in parts of Northern California. The most severe part of the storm is expected to continue through Thursday, eventually yielding up to 10 days of wet weather around the state.

“To put it simply, this will likely be one of the most impactful systems on a widespread scale that this meteorologist has seen in a long while,” the weather service’s forecast for Northern California read.

Advertisement

Any time you have this much water and wind, you risk blackouts.

Here’s what to do before and during a power outage.

When an evacuation order reaches you, you need to leave. Now. Here’s how to prepare and what to have ready to go if you may need to evacuate during the rainstorms hitting California.

Jan. 4, 2023

How to prepare for a blackout

Check your emergency kit. For a potential outage — and any other kind of disaster that might strike — you want to have an emergency kit in place. Have your supplies ready, including nonperishable food, drinking water, flashlight batteries, a fire extinguisher, cash, a first-aid kit and a hand-crank weather radio (you can find a full list of useful items here). Have gloves, goggles, duct tape and plastic sheeting on hand in case of something like a falling tree branch breaking a window. Also make sure to have a bedside mini-kit in case you wake up during a nighttime outage and need to get around in the dark: Hard-soled shoes, a flashlight and a spare pair of eyeglasses or contacts if you wear them.

Make a plan for your family. Every plan will look different. If you have young children, make sure you have enough formula, diapers and other supplies to last a few days. If you have pets, double-check your kibble stash. Make sure everyone who takes a medication has a few days’ worth on hand. If a family member uses a mobility device, figure out how you’ll get them out of your building without using an elevator. If someone uses a medical device that plugs in, make sure it’s fully charged and you have a battery-powered backup option on hand. Write down pertinent phone numbers for family members, doctors and insurance companies, in case your smartphone dies and you lose access to your list of contacts. Decide where you’ll go if you need to evacuate.

Charge devices, fill your tank, check your batteries. Make sure all your phones, tablets, e-book readers and laptops are fully charged. Consider charging an extra battery pack, if you have one. Fill your gas tank or charge your EV’s battery. Check the batteries in your flashlights and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and locate extras in case you need them.

Sign up for emergency alerts and watch for outage information. Sign up at Notify L.A. if you live in the city of Los Angeles. If you’re elsewhere in L.A. County, you can find your municipality’s alert system sign-up here. Outside of L.A. County, search “emergency alerts (your city or county).”

Support our journalism

This article on Hurricane Hilary is free for all readers. Support our journalism with a subscription to receive more storm coverage.

To stay up to date in case of potential blackouts, sign up for alerts from your electricity provider and bookmark its website’s map of outages. In much of Southern California, the provider is going to be Southern California Edison, which has an outage map and lets you sign up for alerts by email, text and phone. In the city of Los Angeles, you can check the L.A. Department of Water and Power outage map and, if you have an account with the DWP, sign up for alerts on its website. Here’s the outage map for San Diego Gas & Electric and instructions on how to download the app with alerts. And here’s where to find the outage map for Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves much of the rest of California, and where to sign up for its alerts.

Advertisement

Prep power-free meals and activities. Poke around your pantry and come up with a couple of ideas for meals and snacks that wouldn’t require you to open your fridge or freezer or use electricity-powered heat to cook. If you have something irreplaceable in the freezer, like breast milk, consider filling the freezer with cold packs or water bottles if you’re at risk of an outage. A fuller freezer stays frozen longer. Gather your puzzles, board games, craft projects and books for prime time.

Learn how to open your garage door manually, or leave it open. If you need to evacuate or someone in your house has a medical emergency, you’ll need to access your vehicle.

Another winter storm unleashed heavy rain in Northern California, causing flooding in Santa Cruz County and beyond. President Biden declares a state of emergency.

Jan. 9, 2023

What to do during a power outage

Stay home. It’s safer in your house than out on the roads when streetlights might be out. Unless you’re ordered to evacuate or need to go somewhere else for health reasons, do your best to stay put.

Avoid opening the fridge and freezer. A closed refrigerator, even without power, can keep food at safe temperatures for four hours in the fridge and 24-48 hours in the freezer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every time you open the fridge, you’re losing precious degrees.

Don’t light candles. Flashlights and other battery-operated light sources are much safer, especially when emergency services will already be stretched thin.

Unplug things that aren’t plugged into surge protectors. When the power comes back on, you don’t want to blow out your appliances. You should turn off all but one light, so you’ll know when the power is back without risking a surge.

Advertisement

Save your phone and laptop battery for emergencies only. Yes, it’s tempting to kill a few unpowered hours scrolling through social media or knocking out Wordle. But it’s better to reserve that battery power for checking for emergency updates. Now’s the time to tackle that jigsaw puzzle you ordered in summer 2020 or catch up on your reading.

Stay up to date on alerts. To get the latest information on the storm, you can listen to radio livestreams from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at any time online, or via your hand-crank weather radio (that’s why you put one in your emergency kit). Keep checking your outage map and your electricity provider’s Twitter account for updates.

Heed evacuation orders. If you’re ordered to evacuate, leave quickly. Here’s what you’ll want to pack for an evacuation.

Southern California is bracing for another round of powerful and potentially destructive storms this week.

Jan. 8, 2023

What to do when the power comes back on

Check on neighbors and local family members to make sure everyone’s OK.

Turn lights back on and plug in appliances. Anything that was on a timer will need to be reset.

Check appliances and make sure everything is working.

Check the food in your fridge and freezer to make sure it’s still safe. If the power has been out for less than four hours, the food in your refrigerator should still be safe to eat. After that, food may no longer be safe to eat if it’s reached an internal temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which you can check with a food thermometer. FoodSafety.gov has a list of which foods to discard at that point.

Advertisement

Stay away from downed power lines and tree branches.

Reconnect your garage door opener if you set it to manual.

Restock your emergency kit to replace the supplies you used. And you didn’t have a kit already, sign up for Unshaken, our eight-part newsletter series about disaster preparedness that includes tips for putting one together.

About The Times Utility Journalism Team

This article is from The Times’ Utility Journalism Team. Our mission is to be essential to the lives of Southern Californians by publishing information that solves problems, answers questions and helps with decision making. We serve audiences in and around Los Angeles — including current Times subscribers and diverse communities that haven’t historically had their needs met by our coverage.

How can we be useful to you and your community? Email utility (at) latimes.com or one of our journalists: Jon Healey, Ada Tseng, Jessica Roy and Karen Garcia.

Advertisement