High winds prompt SDG&E to turn off backcountry power lines

SAN DIEGO – San Diego Gas and Electric has cut power to two East County power lines to prevent the possibility that they could spark wildfires if they are blown down by powerful Santa Ana winds.

The utility said they implemented the two "unplanned outages" on Monday in a proactive effort to prevent fires wind gusts blow down the high tension power lines. Power was cut to the Pine Hills are near Santa Ysabel and Julian Monday morning. Residents in Santa Isabel, Wynola and Pine Hills are affected. SDG&E estimates that power will be restored to the area Wednesday morning after the Santa Ana winds subside.

Electricity was also been turned off in the Descanso area Monday night at about 11 p.m. The outage affects the rural communities of Descanso, the Viejas Indian Reservation, Boulder Creek and parts of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The utility expects to restore power to the area Tuesday afternoon.

Residents of Descanso sought refuge from the heat in the Descanso Public Library a designated cool zone.

“I think it was about 11 when I noticed that everything was dark in the house. So it hasn't been on since,” said Descanso resident Karla Mallon.

Mallon has lived in Descanso for 11 years and said SDG&E has been performing weather safety outages since the Witch Fire of 2007.

“I’m here because I got to do some paperwork and stay out of the heat since SDG&E shut the power off. Gotta get out of the heat,” said Mallon. “I don’t think that it’s right that they shut the power off. It’s inconvenient. What do you do?”

SDG&E says it knows in the midst of this heat wave that it’s an inconvenience for customers, but it’s all in the name of public safety.

“We saw winds up to 59 miles per hour last night and we decided to deenergize a transmission line and a distribution line in the Descanso area. That impacted 87 customers and both those lines are still deenergized at this point,” said SDG&E spokeswoman Colleen Windsor.  “We don't ever want to turn the power off I mean we are a company who wants to provide service and that is our job to provide everyone electrical service. But public safety is the number one priority in fact before we even energize those lines even when the winds do subside we have field crews who will have to go out and monitor the lines to make sure nothing has come in contacted it during those high winds and so that will take a couple of hours as well before we can get that power restored."

Two of the devastating fires that ravaged San Diego County in 2007 were touched off by sparks from SDG&E power lines during strong Santa Ana winds. The utility has settled around 2,500 lawsuits filed by victims of the blazes for an estimated $2.4 billion.

Since 2007, SDG&E said it has installed 170 weather stations around its service territory — San Diego County and southern Orange County — to be prepared for the next major Santa Ana windstorm.