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SCE Crews Vigilant as Winter Storms Could Topple Trees, Debris Into Power Lines

The utility’s Vegetation Management Team is at the ready monitoring vulnerable areas in the canyons, hillsides.
By Caroline Aoyagi-Stom @SCE_CarolineA

With Southern California in the midst of three back-to-back winter storms, the continuous onslaught of rain on soil that was once parched from drought conditions could bring down trees and result in mudslides and possible flooding.

It’s this combination of wet debris — much of it broken tree limbs and vegetation — and the possible contact with downed power lines that has Jon Pancoast, Southern California Edison manager of Vegetation Management and Forestry, and his team on high alert during these latest round of storms.

“The ground is still wet and soaking everything in, so we are more vulnerable now,” said Pancoast, a trained arborist who has worked at SCE for 48 years. “The winds can catch the trees and bring them down.”

SCE has 263 Vegetation Management crew members available year-round and they are at the ready during weather-related events. Crews have already been deployed to areas that may be difficult to get to if roads are closed during these storms, including Shaver Lake, Big Creek and Arrowhead. 

Don’t try to remove the debris yourself. We will send out someone. Let the experts handle that. We would rather be safe and take a look.

Jon Pancoast, SCE Manager 

And like firefighters who patrol fire-prone areas during a hot summer day, Vegetation Management crews are currently patrolling areas that may be more susceptible to fallen debris during heavy rains and snow, such as in the canyons and hilly areas.

“We know where the recent fire burn areas are,” said Pancoast. “We are out there looking for any signs and can respond to any incident we need to.”

He reminds customers to never try to remove debris near a power line themselves, including fallen palm fronds, and to call SCE at 1-800-611-1911. Treat any downed power line as energized — never approaching or touching it or anything in contact with it — and call 911 immediately.

“Don’t try to remove the debris yourself. We will send out someone,” said Pancoast. “Let the experts handle that. We would rather be safe and take a look.”

SCE encourages customers to stay vigilant during these latest storms. Some signs that may indicate a vulnerable tree, include:

  • A leaning tree.
  • The soil around a tree is disturbed, such as separation of the soil.
  • You can see the tree roots.

The National Weather Service is forecasting several inches of rain and snow with accompanying winds throughout Southern California till Monday.

Customers may report outages at 1-800-611-1911online or through the SCE Outages app. SCE will provide the latest information about outages at its website and on Facebook and Twitter.

Storm Safety Tips:

  • Downed trees and mudslides may have damaged electrical lines. If you come across any downed wires, stay away and call 911.
  • Wet yards with puddles on cement and grass can carry electricity. If a line is down in your yard, remain indoors and call 911 immediately.
  • When power is out, traffic signals may be out so approach those intersections as four-way stops.
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