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Thousands go dark in Ventura County wind event

High winds and power outages left thousands in the dark throughout Ventura County Monday morning, and others worried about the threat of a fire.

It came at a time when Southern California Edison was both responding to power issues throughout its system and implementing a strategy to cut power to some areas where high winds could send hot power lines into tinder dry brush. Customers in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange Counties were among those given special notifications.

The utility is trying to head off wildland fires that may be linked to its equipment.

An outage map on the SCE website showed numerous sites with repair calls Monday morning. At one point Ventura County had more than 3000 customers without service. Each repair incident listed the number of accounts impacted and an estimated time when power would be restored.

Some residents received a phone call with an automated message. In part it told the customers: “This is an important message from Southern California Edison. We have begun exploring options for a potential “Public Safety Power Shutoff” in your area. The power has not been shut off at this time. We are identifying areas that might be affected by dangerous high winds.”

In Ojai, Dennis Rice said he went for a morning walk above the valley and “It looked like the whole valley was in motion. You could see the trees and particular palms that were swaying back and forth. There were dust devils that were running along the shelf of the road where you see it become a small (dust) tornado.”

At Westridge Family Markets, the lights were out at the location on 802 Ojai Avenue. A sign told customers the business was closed due to the power issue. Many customers were caught off guard and turned away. They were directed to a mid-town location that was still open without power problems.

Rice was looking for the sweet treat known as “Tofutti Cuties” and planned to move on to another store until he found them.

Jessica Mandiola had just returned from a trip and needed to stock her refrigerator.

“This is a nuisance we have no food in the fridge right now,” she said. It was not immediately known what led to this outage, but if it were to be a fire prevention measure she said, “the inconvenience of not having power for a little bit is better than having a huge raging fire.”

Many residents were aware of the Edison policy changes through recent messages in the media and monthly bills.

“I think they have to do what’s best,” said Rice. “I know they are still smarting from starting the fire around Christmas and they will do what they can to protect themselves and protect us.”

At the Humane Society of Ventura County in Ojai, Humane Society Community Outreach Director Greg Cooper came to work in the dark.

All of the animals were fed and cared for as part of the daily duties.

The office equipment did not work, and he said “with all of the computers down the most immediate impact would be we don’t have the ability to service the public.”

The facility was in the process of reorganizing its site to create more room with corrals in case large animals came in.

During the December Thomas Fire, over 300 animals came in. They included dogs, cats, horses, alpacas, birds and snakes. “

If people need to evacuate again, Cooper said it was “our priority” to make sure “we had all the corral space available for them.”

The 4.4. acre facility says it wants to have “better capacity, more capacity and more organized capacity.”

The hills around Ojai were showing scars from the Thomas fire including hundreds of areas immediately next to the Humane Society.

Throughout the day there were Edison crews working high into the power poles, at times with strong wind gusts.

The National Weather Service reported some gusts in the area in excess of 40 miles per hour in Ojai and 60 miles and hour in Santa Paula. A red flag advisory remained as a warning until Tuesday evening.


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