San Diego

Palomar Mountain Residents Denied Power by SDG&E Have ‘Had Enough'

From base to peak, folks who live around Palomar Mountain are no stranger to high winds.

"When it gets over 35 mph, i hear the house rattle and shake, so I know it's pretty bad," said Kimberly Mead of Pauma Valley.

And when Mead heard those winds Tuesday night she knew what was coming next.

"They turned the power off. SDG&E turned the power off supposedly for our safety," she said.

During this Santa Ana season, SDG&E has periodically shut off power to certain areas in San Diego County where high winds pose a higher risk of wildfire threats. More than 40,000 people in the county were warned of such an event this week.

https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Santa-Ana-Winds-Prompt-SDGE-to-Warn-of-Potential-Shut-Offs-564038241.html

But while Mead has a generator and can stomach weeks of “Public Safety Power Shutoffs,” as the utility company calls them, she told NBC 7 others in the community are having a rougher time.

"People are losing food, they're struggling. It's expensive even if you do have a generator, you're paying a lot more for gas," she explained.

But SDG&E says public safety is the utility’s highest priority.

"We recognize public safety power shutoffs are disruptive, and we sincerely thank our customers for their patience and understanding. Our goal is to restore power as quickly and safely as possible," SDG&E spokesman Wes Jones said.

Up on the mountain, realtor Bonnie Phelps’ working generator has allowed her to become a community freezer of sorts.

"We have a shelf for [neighbors'] food!" said Phelps.

Phelps wished SDG&E would simply bury utility lines on the mountain to put this issue to rest.

"That's a lot of the chatter on the mountain, let's make it safe...put it underground," she said.

"It's important to remember that power lines from a well-maintained and well-designed power grid can still ignite a catastrophic wildfire," reads SDG&E's 'Public Safety Power Shutoff' website.

"Over the past several years, SDG&E has made significant improvements to its electric grid when it comes to wildfire preparedness," it continues.

"To me it's just to switch the liability off of SDG&E on to homeowners," Mead said, arguing those without power will resort to riskier behavior like using open fire barbecues or generators that might spark a fire.

Mead hopes more attention to the shutoffs will prompt lawmakers to hold utility companies more accountable.

"Maybe some people will wake up and say, 'Hey! Come on, let's fix this! We can't have our power out all the time!'" she said.

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