Los Angeles — Dangerous conditions for wildfires were prompting Southern California Edison to consider shutting off electricity to more than 88,000 customers across five counties on Thanksgiving.
As of early Thursday morning Edison was not reporting any shutoffs, but given the risk of fires being sparked by wind-damaged powerlines, the company was warning about 1.8% of its 5 million customers that red flag warnings of extreme fire danger could derail their plans for the big meal.
Forecasters said Santa Ana winds were expected to develop across a wide swathe of Southern California over the course of the day. The gusts would affect the region from northwest of Los Angeles down to the Mexico border into the weekend, with timing and strength depending on location, according to the National Weather Service.
Santa Ana winds blow from the interior toward the coast, creating potentially critical fire conditions with the combination of vegetation-withering low humidity and powerful gusts, especially below mountain passes and canyons.
Common in the fall but possible at other times, the winds have fanned many catastrophic wildfires.
Southern California Edison’s public safety power shutoff website showed blackouts were under consideration for about 39,000 customers in San Bernardino County, more than 21,000 in Los Angeles County, about 15,000 in Ventura County, along with lower numbers in Riverside, Kern and Orange Counties.
Another page on the power company’s website offered links to a handful of Southern California hotels that it said were offering discounted rates to Southern California Edison “customers experiencing an extended outage.”
California has already experienced a disastrous year of wildfires that have left 31 people dead and some 10,400 structures damaged or destroyed.
Despite the risk, CBS Los Angeles said some residents were unhappy about the potential of a dark Thanksgiving weekend.
“I talked to a lot of residents today and they are fed up,” said Mayor Acquanetta Warren of Fontana, in San Bernardino County. “It has been very frustrating… I get what the residents are feeling. I’m feeling it. We really need to come up with a better method.”
She noted to CBS Los Angles that Fontana is frequently windy and has thus been affected by previous shutoffs, and she said the power company was “never clear on how long the power outages will be.”
Southern California Edison’s website says the company seeks to turn the lights back on for any customers in affected areas, “as soon as the weather conditions permit, and crews have inspected the power lines to confirm it is safe to restore power.”