Storm report outlines damage

The December windstorm that downed trees and electricity wires in Glendale cost the city more than $500,000, according to a report to the Glendale Water & Power Commission on Monday.

And that doesn't include the hit from lost revenues, which has yet to be determined, said Ramon Abueg, assistant general manager of electrical services for the city's utility.

Since Glendale is self-insured for issues under $2 million, the utility will likely have to suck money out of its cash reserves to cover the costs, officials reported. However, Abueg said Glendale and neighboring cities hope the state will declare the incident a disaster, freeing up some monetary aid.

The effects of the storm, which began overnight Nov. 30, rippled through the city for five days. At least 30 customers were without power for about 65 hours, according to the report.

“Could we have avoided the outages? The answer is 'no,'“ Abueg told the commission.

The small group that went without power for more than two days were in an area where poles were difficult to access, Abueg said. Glendale Water & Power prioritized sending crews to areas that were easily accessible and where they could restore power to the most amount of people.

Throughout the storm, more than 52 electricity workers were on the scene clocking 18-hour shifts. Glendale also received help from Burbank crews and a contractor. The utility had to replace more than 5,000 feet of electrical wire, 10 electricity poles, 22 cross arms and four transformers, according to the report.

Despite the damage, the storm’s toll in Glendale pales in comparison to what happened in neighboring cities such as Pasadena. Officials have reported costs of $17 million in Pasadena and $2 million in South Pasadena.

In a public hearing on the response to the disaster in San Gabriel Valley, residents have berated Southern California Edison and local officials there for what they said was a lack of information on the repairs.

In Glendale, keeping the public informed is a top priority and something the utility must work on, Abueg said.

“We’re working on a system to make that better,” Abueg said, noting that after Glendale crews finished work here some staff went to Pasadena to lend a hand.

Trees caused most of the damage in Glendale, and in response, the city is revising which types it plants. In Montrose, several jacarandas toppled during the storm. City officials have decided to move away from the purple flowering trees and toward steadier ones.

But some outages were caused by foreign objects, including structures from homes. For example, winds blew a canopy designed to cover a car into an electricity pole, causing a power outage, Abueg said.

The tree issue could have been worse if not for a $1.2-million tree trimming program, according the report. Without the upkeep, there could have been more damage.

The city has budgeted about $1 million for pole inspection and replacement. That includes the cost of replacing about 10 poles per year.

As for lessons learned, Abueg said Glendale Water & Power plans to improve ways to notify staff about emergency issues, as well as track customer complaints. He added the utility also needs to get risk management officials involved earlier.

“It’s good to see that there are lessons learned,” said commissioner Terry Chan.

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