Hurricane Rose

Cleanup continues — much of it in the dark — following last week’s hurricane-force winds

By Andre Coleman and Justin Chapman Pasadena Weekly, 12/8/2011

Some residents of Altadena entered their sixth day without power Monday as local officials continued cleaning up fallen limbs, downed power lines and other damage caused by powerful Santa Ana winds of up to 97 mph that ravaged Altadena, Pasadena, Arcadia and other communities around the San Gabriel Valley.
In Glendale, high winds caused 10 broken power poles, leaving about 200 people without power as of Monday afternoon, according to published reports, and in Eagle Rock, which is part of the city of Los Angeles, only a few blocks were still without power, according to the LA Department of Water and Power. DWP officials estimated Monday that less than 200 homes still did not have service. Electricity was expected to be completely restored by Tuesday afternoon.
In San Gabriel, “It’s ridiculous,” said resident Steven Diorio, whose power went out early Thursday morning. Diorio maintained water and gas heating in his apartment. “I’ve lived in the Northeast [United States] for 27 years, and anytime there’s heavy snow or a power outage, it ranges from three hours to two days. And this is now day five. [Southern California] Edison is incompetent.” Diorio’s power was restored at about 5 p.m. Monday.
“There seems to be the feeling that Edison was ill prepared” when it came to providing emergency service to Altadena, Altadenablog author Tim Rutt told the Weekly Monday morning. 
“Right now, they are saying everyone’s power should be on by Monday night. If that does not happen, that will be our sixth night without power for certain sections of Altadena,” Rutt said.
According to Rutt’s blog, local clean-up crews plan this week to remove debris that had fallen on residential property in the unincorporated mountainside community. The LA County work crews will not remove toppled trees that were originally planted on private property. Some Altadena businesses remained closed Monday.
In Arcadia, the LA County Arboretum and Botanical Garden will be closed until further notice, according to the latest update on its Web site. Arcadia County Park and two other county parks in La Cañada Flintridge were also closed as of Monday, with county crews repairing damage to trees, plants and structures.
Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge reopened Monday after being closed for four days due to power outages and damages caused by the high winds.
About 26,000 residents scattered throughout LA County were still without power as of Monday afternoon, including some residents of Pasadena, Arcadia and Monrovia.
Southern California Edison — which provides electricity to Altadena, Arcadia and Monrovia — reported Monday that power had been restored to 99 percent of the homes in its service area.  
According to Pasadena Public Information Officer Ann Erdman, some local residents went as far as opening utility boxes on telephone poles in an attempt to run wires from the poles to their homes to restore electricity.
The winds knocked down 47 power lines and seriously damaged 42 buildings, leaving them uninhabitable, Erdman said. Another 200 structures sustained minor damages. The destruction forced LA County Mayor Michael Antonovich to declare a state of emergency in Los Angeles County. The city of Pasadena declared a state of emergency early Thursday morning, with the city of Arcadia quickly following suit.
East Pasadena, it appears, took the brunt of the wind damage in the city, with fallen trees damaging homes and destroying one gas station on Colorado and San Gabriel boulevards.
Pasadena resident Robyn Robinson said she called the city and a number of news agencies several times to help her unwrap live, downed power lines near her home, but with no luck.
“Nobody’s even come out to look at the live wires wrapped around the pine tree that is 125 feet long,” Robinson said last Thursday afternoon, shortly after the wind had died down.  “They’re live wires, so they can ignite the tree in moments, and it will catch every single tree and then this neighborhood is gone. It will be instantaneous.” The tree was eventually cut up and the power lines secured. 
“Basically, it just looks like a bomb went off here,” said Pasadena resident and former Santa Monica police Officer Kim Santell, who lives in Lower Hastings Ranch. “Somebody just dropped a nuke, and this is the result. This is not going to go away real soon. I hope that we can get some disaster relief, because this is a disaster zone. I’ve never seen it like this, and I’ve lived through some pretty nasty hurricanes in Florida.”
Around 3 a.m. last Thursday, a tree in front of Santell’s home fell over and took a potentially live overhead power cable with it, snapping the wire in half and leaving the split wires resting near the middle of the street. 
“I had to get in there and try to hacksaw the branches, and my saw broke,” said Santell. “I don’t know if the line in the street is alive or not, but I’m not going to touch it and find out. I’m hoping it’s dead.”
Pasadena city officials released a statement Thursday night assuring residents that the debris had been removed from major streets and that secondary streets would be next. Still, there were no city vehicles in Hastings Ranch Friday morning and residents had started removing the debris on their own.
While Robinson was speaking, an employee with Department of Water and Power arrived in his city truck, stood in the middle of the street and looked at the tree but did not place cones or caution tape by the dangerous wire before leaving. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Weekly at the time that no one was responding because similar and even worse situations were occurring elsewhere.
“It’s all over the city,” he said. “We have streets blocked with wires down all over. This is not the only location with this situation. I’ve been going around putting caution tape around certain areas and cones on everything I see that looks dangerous.”
Meanwhile, Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck and NAACP Pasadena Branch President Joe Brown teamed up to put 40 local people to work on the cleanup soon after the disaster.
“With a few small tweets, and in less than one hour, the process had taken shape, and Michael fine tuned it with a local agency that had the capacity to get it done,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “Michael could have sat on the idea with the ‘what ifs’ and gum it up with bureaucratic red tape. Instead, he listened, he explored and he pushed it through. Yes, in less than one hour.” 

Reporters Carl Kozlowski and Aaron Harris contributed to this story.