Historic storms knocked out power for record number of Californians

BRENTWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Due to heavy rains a large eucalyptus tree fell, taking down some power lines in the Brentwood area today, resulting in an outage and blocking road access. LADWP crew surveys the downed tree on 600 block of North Bundy Drive, Brentwood, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Because of heavy rains, a large eucalyptus tree fell, taking down some power lines in the Brentwood area Thursday, resulting in an outage and blocking road access. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

An atmospheric river storm that pummeled California with record amounts of rain knocked out power for a record number of Californians.

The storm, which dumped more than a foot of rain in some parts of Los Angeles County since Sunday, also damaged electrical equipment resulting in the highest number of outages of Pacific Gas & Electric customers from a single storm in at least 30 years, according to the utility.

At least one of the nine deaths attributed to the latest storm systems resulted from a power outage.

About 1.4 million PG&E customers statewide lost power during the storm. The bulk of the outages have affected Northern California where powerful wind gusts toppled trees, sending them crashing onto electrical equipment and into homes.

Read more: California storm: After 5 days, the rain has stopped. In its wake, 9 dead, a trail of destruction

About 30,000 PG&E customers remained without power as of Thursday morning, according to the utility that serves much of Northern California, the Central Valley and a swath of the Central Coast.

"The storm and the intensity of the winds came in much higher than any of the models forecasted. The damage has been very, very significant," PG&E Chief Operating Officer Sumeet Singh said in a video posted on the utility's website. Singh added that some areas recorded wind speeds that surpassed 90 mph.

At their peak, the outages statewide affected around 875,000 people, Brian Ferguson, spokesperson for the governor's Office of Emergency Services told The Times this week.

On Monday, a 90-year-old woman who was dependent on oxygen died after the power went out in her Los Osos home, according to San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s spokesperson Tony Cipolla.

Customers in Sonoma, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Mendocino and Santa Clara counties have been hardest hit, with between 3,000 and 6,000 customers affected. Officials anticipate most customers' power will be restored by the end of the day Friday.

The storm damaged more than 2,500 spans of powerlines, 866 power poles and 327 transformers, according to PG&E.

Read more: Here's how much it has rained in California compared to years past

Access to electrical equipment amid the relentless rain impeded repairs, officials said.

In Carmel-by-the-Sea, hundreds of customers didn't have electricity on Thursday morning, but hoped it would be restored before the day is over. Some have been without power since late Saturday, said Mayor Dave Potter.

"The outages have been significant. We were able to get power back to the majority of people within about 48 hours, but there's still some people without it," he said.

Electricity went out at Potter's home late Saturday night so his family checked into a nearby hotel. His power was restored quickly, he said, "but I still had to throw all of our food away."

PG&E partnered with food banks in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Marin, Humbolt, Sonoma, Solano Lake, Napa, Monterey and Mendocino counties to provide meals to people who have been without power for days.

Read more: L.A.'s monster storm was even worse in some areas than the alarming forecasts

Utility equipment in Southern California has also been damaged, but outages have not been as widespread. Jeff Monford, a spokesperson for Southern California Edison said crews were staged ahead of the storm in areas across the region where roads are typically closed making access easier when issues arose.

Southern California Edison reported 75 outages as of Thursday, affecting just over 2,700 customers. The bulk of those outages were in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties.

"At one point we had an average of 8,000 customers affected," Monford said. "But with crews being out in the field making repairs as quickly and as safely as they can, we now have many fewer customers affected."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.