Thousands of greater Tehachapi residents and business owners may now resume their normal routine, as Southern California Edison has restored power to the area. Thousands of customers have gone multiple hours — with some reporting power losses beyond 40 hours straight — in the past week without power or water due to Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
“I understand the premise of the outages; however, living within the city of Tehachapi, we felt we were not going to be subject to the outage because of the fact that we were in the city limits,” said city resident Gail Hoeft.
Both she and her husband use oxygen machines at night, she said, and they stopped working when the power was turned off in the early morning hours on Wednesday.
The power outages forced school and business closures, turned off stop lights and resulted in waits at some locations that did remain open.
Heather Savage, who is married with two children living in Stallion Springs said, ”Our entire home is electric.”
She added, “We lost power Tuesday night. My husband and I work from home remotely and thankfully we have a generator to keep the internet up and the refrigerator. The biggest thing is not being able to keep the house warm, except with a fireplace, and taking hot showers.”
David L. Lange, a Tehachapi resident who lives off the grid, said people may choose to have a back-up generator with enough power to match electric needs, keep propane tanks full for other appliances, use dry ice and solar lights, as a way to prepare in the future for other outages.
Areas in the Tehachapi area affected by the outages in the past month include the city of Tehachapi, Old Towne, Golden Hills, Sand Canyon, Loraine, Twin Oaks, Keene, areas of Bear Valley Springs, Cummings Valley, Alpine Forest and Stallion Springs, according to the Southern California Edison website.
Businesses are considering the impact the outages will have on their earnings, and the inconvenience to the customers they serve.
Kohnen's Country Bakery was without power Wednesday. The power was turned off at 4:30 a.m., impacting the baking of items that started at 2:30 a.m., Devin Kohnen, the son of the bakery owners, said as he worked at the family business.
“It’s hard to say how to prepare for it,” Kohnen said. Even though the potential outage was planned, the owners didn't know exactly what time it would start, he said.
The business does have a generator, but it only supplies power to certain items. Ovens, cash registers and other electronics require higher electrical power.
The repercussions are that since the business was closed one day, employees were without work and some bakery items that didn’t cook had to be thrown out, said Kohnen.
“The best thing at this point is to evolve and think about what to do in the future if a situation like this happens again,” Kohnen said.
Some readers on the Tehachapi News Facebook page questioned meter charges, the possibility of installing underground power lines and whether the shut-offs really help reduce fire hazards.
Mary Ann Milbourn, spokeswoman for Southern California Edison, said that data from company studies of the areas where the shut-offs are occurring show high fire risk and when the power is down, it’s for the safety for the public. A specific study on the Tehachapi area was not available.
Infrastructure upgrades are considered by the company, although they are very expensive, and costs are shared by all ratepayers if this action is taken.
“We do continue to look for possibilities for underground lines,” Milbourn said. She added, “There is a long permitting progress... It can take years. It also costs about $3 million per mile for underground lines, compared to $430,000 per mile to install insulated overhead lines.”
Some customers may see an estimated charge when the power is out, although if no power was used, an updated bill will be sent to customers, said Milbourn.
“The smart reader may still be running, but customers are only charged for the amount of power they use, so if their power is shut off, they are not using any and they won’t be charged for that,” Milbourn said.