LA City Council Motion Calls for LADWP Report on Improving Resilience in LA Power Grid

Recent storm left over 140,000 ratepayers without power

By Sam Catanzaro

Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky – who represents Century City and Westwood – has introduced a motion calling on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to report on its response to last weekend’s winter storms, as well as its plan for increasing resilience in the power grid. 

According to the motion – co-authored byCouncilmember Nithya Raman – the recent record-breaking winter storm caused Level 3 damage to LADWP’s electrical system, which is equivalent to the level of damage expected from a magnitude 6 earthquake or higher. This left many neighborhoods across Los Angeles with multi-day power outages due to high winds, heavy rains, flooding, and water intrusion into underground electrical systems. Over 140,000 households have had their service restored, but more than 12,000 were still without power as of February 28. 

“Last weekend was incredibly difficult and frustrating for many across Council District 5, as over 150,000 Angelenos dealt with multi-day power outages,” Yaroslavsky said in a recent newsletter. “We can’t have a grid that is brought to its knees by one winter storm. We know that climate change will only intensify weather events, including storms, heat waves, wildfires, and megadroughts. If we don’t harden our grid now, the outages from last weekend will become the new normal. We can’t let that happen. My hope is that this report will be the beginning of serious, concrete steps towards increasing climate resilience in our power grid.” 

According to the motion, LADWP deployed all available personnel throughout the city; however, restoration times were still above 48 hours for most households. Limited information available on the LADWP Power Outage map and inconsistent information sent via the robocall system compounded stress and frustration felt by many ratepayers, the motion adds. 

If passed, the motion would instruct LADWP to immediately report regarding the status of power outages throughout the city associated with recent storm events; including main causes by area, its response to the loss of service experienced by residents and businesses, and recommendations on the system hardening against future extreme weather events. The motion also calls on City Council to instruct LADWP to report on staffing and operations; ways it can improve operations in order to mitigate the loss of service in the future; data collection; outage notifications; public communication protocols used during recent storm events; and ways these protocols can be improved. The motion would also instruct LADWP to coordinate with the Emergency Management Department (EMD) related to managing and responding to weather-related emergencies and identifying channels for communication of critical safety information between City departments, Council offices, and residents.

“As policy makers, we need a clear picture on what challenges LADWP faced in restoring power last weekend, as well as their plans for hardening our grid against future climate-related outages,” Yaroslavsky said. 

This motion was referred to the Energy and Environment Committee, which Yaroslavsky chairs, and will be heard on Friday. 

The LADWP could not immediately be reached for comment. The agency, however, did post on social media thanking its crews for the work they did responding to outages caused by the storm. 

“A week ago, a record wind and rain storm downed trees, power poles, and power lines, resulting in widespread power outages across our service area. Our amazing, dedicated  crews worked 16-hour shifts around the clock in extreme conditions to remove downed trees, de-energize downed power lines, climb poles, and work in tight underground vaults to restore power as quickly and safely as possible to our customers. With the storm behind us, we would like to say another BIG THANK YOU to our electric crews for what they do, day-in, day-out, rain or shine! We also want to thank our customers for their patience and understanding under challenging conditions,” reads the post.

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