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Report: Unsafe poles contributed windstorm outages

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Southern California Edison overloading some power poles and botched efforts to restore power, contributing to massive electrical outages from a windstorm last fall, state regulators said.

At least 21 of the 215 wooden utility poles that toppled failed to meet safety regulations because they were overloaded with wires, telecommunications and electrical equipment, and 17 supporting guywires didn’t meet safety standards, according to a preliminary report from the California Public Utilities Commission.

The poles are jointly owned by the utility and companies that use them to support telephone and other telecommunications equipment.

Winds gusting to nearly 100 mph downed power lines and thousands of trees and branches late Nov. 30 and early Dec. 1, leaving about 440,000 customers in the dark, some for up to a week.

The early version of the report, released at Wednesday’s PUC meeting, said Edison prolonged the outages by failing to ask other utilities for help in restoring power.

The report is a step toward determining whether Edison will be fined.

The utility also wasn’t pleased with its response and has made changes, Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said.

Instead of randomly fixing downed wires that have no electricity running to them because of breaks down the line, workers will focus on restoring lines in the radial pattern that power is transmitted, Manfre said.

At least 170 circuit outages were caused by vegetation, such as trees falling into and breaking wires, according to the report.

“These were 100-year-old trees uprooting and falling onto our wires,” Manfre said.

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