Questions Unanswered a Week After Massive Power Outage

A power pole down due to Monday’s storm

Southern California Edison officials on Monday, Nov. 1, remained unable to explain why about a third of Malibu was blacked out for 19 hours during a Santa Ana windstorm from Monday, Oct. 26, into Tuesday, Oct. 27. Though the storm downed a few trees, it did not cause any major damage in the city and the trees were not blamed for outages—it appeared trees that did fall came down well after power was already out.

The power company said in an official statement that it was investigating why a series of confusing notices went out during the blackout, some of which falsely indicated that the power outage had been intentional and was caused by SCE deciding to shut off power to reduce fire danger as part of the PSPS program.

PSPS (“public safety power shut-off”) is a program that began in 2018 designed to avoid fires sparked by downed lines—with the added bonus of absolving the power companies of fault from utility-cased blazes (the most common cause of wildfires in California).

Service to 2,332 Malibu customers was interrupted at about 9:45 a.m. Monday, Oct. 26, as wind gusts in the 60-70 mile per hour range blasted the coast. The power company was unable to explain what the nature of the outage was during the blackout—or even a week later—to either the public, news reporters or the city.

But residents told KBUU News they saw an explosion along power lines in Latigo Canyon, and repair crews told passersby that a long reach of uninsulated lines had slapped into each other, causing a flashover.

That, in turn, may have triggered a massive equipment failure at the nearby Latigo Canyon substation, where repair crews were observed working all night.

That outage was in addition to another nearly 1,000 customers out in the Corral Canyon area. 

The SCE statement which said, in part, that the company “understands this confluence of events was confusing and is committed to continuing to improve its notification process to better inform Malibu and other cities of the reasons for de-energizations” was also distributed by the city manager, with no comment.


A previous version of this story was reported by KBUU News.