Power outage causes Malibu businesses to temporarily close

Multiple businesses posted notices on their doors letting customers know of the Southern California Edision maintenance outage on Wednesday, June 29. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Malibu City Hall and surrounding businesses were forced to close last week due to a power outage that lasted from about 2 to 8 p.m. The outage impacted retail and restaurants near Malibu Country Mart all the way to Country Liquor Store on Rambla Pacifico. The outage also impacted traffic signals along PCH from Topanga Canyon to Webb Way.

Malibu Media Information Officer Matt Myerhoff said the city sends out outage alerts if they are widespread enough, if they are a public safety power shut off, or if it’s related to fire conditions. Myerhoff said the city was unsure about this particular shut off at first and how large it was so they didn’t send any alerts. 

During the outage, Whole Foods at Civic Center Way was the only business open during the outage because it has its own generator. Myerhoff said City Hall does have an emergency backup generator, but it only powers about 25 percent of the building in key offices to conserve fuel. 

City Manager Steve McClary said they didn’t receive any specific information about what caused the outage and were told the power was supposed to be restored by 4:30 p.m.

“Our main system stays on in case of a power emergency so we’re still able to get phone calls, although we did lose cell service, which is a continuous concern,” McClary said. “We’re needing to follow up with those major cell providers, because they’re supposed to have those back-up units up and running and I know we’re following up with them to see where they are with that.”

McClary said they are in contact with Southern California Edison Government Relations Manager Andrew Thomas to follow up from the outage. 

“They were working on a related circuit up in the canyon from what I was told, and they had some equipment failure as they were trying to change out some other equipment and that caused everything to fail,” McClary said. “But what was really concerning to us was the traffic signals between here and Topanga — several of them went out — and those were supposed to kick back on, so it was a rather frustrating afternoon.”

McClary said the Public Works Director was in contact with SCE the following day to figure out what happened.

Public Works Director Rob DuBoux was out of the office during the holiday weekend and was unable to be reached for a comment before The Malibu Times went to press on Tuesday.

According to the city, affected properties were notified directly by Southern California Edison (SCE). 

Businesses such as Country Liquor Store had to close and owner Michel Deeb said they were only accepting cash during the power outage and had to throw away items that were most unsalvageable such as ice and ice cream. Although perishable food was wasted, Deeb said he was grateful the outage wasn’t due to a brush fire. 

“We’re so happy that the City of Malibu takes all the precautions to prevent any fires to protect our businesses and our properties,” Deeb said. “We support the City of Malibu with everything. Country Liquor has been a landmark for 80 years and having stores throughout Southern California — the City of Malibu is by far the best city to have a relationship with.”

During and after an electric outage, SCE recommends throwing out any perishable foods that are in your refrigerator and freezer as it may or may not be safe to consume, depending on the length of the outage and outdoor temperatures, whether the outside temperature of an unopened refrigerator can keep foods cold enough for several hours. Placing blocks of ice inside will help keep food cold longer. 

Other recommendations are to check food carefully for signs of spoilage, and make sure perishable foods are not be held above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours. For outages longer than two hours, food items such as dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, eggs and leftovers should be packed into a cooler with ice. A separate cooler can be packed with frozen items. If power comes back on in less than 24 hours and your freezer is fairly full, your frozen items should be safe. If the refrigerator was out for more than 24 hours, you should get rid of perishables.

Each year, SCE conducts about 20,000 planned outages to perform upgrades to its 50,000-square-mile service territory. Residents and businesses can check on the status of current power outages and sign up for outage notifications on the SCE Outage webpage at sce.com/outage. Planned outages that are not performed could result in longer, inconvenient unplanned outages, sometimes due to catastrophic equipment failure. Most SCE outages impact residential areas. 

“We find that outages during the daytime on weekdays are preferred as most residents are less inconvenienced by an outage that occurs while people are either at school or work,” Distribution Construction and Maintenance South/East Division Director Ed Antillon said in a recent interview.  

One of the ways SCE is reducing wildfire risks is planning Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events. During these events, they may need to proactively shut off power in high fire risk areas as a result of extreme weather conditions. This can prevent their electric system from becoming a source of ignition. Proactive shut-offs are temporary and meant to keep residents and the community safe.

According to the SCE website, power maintenance notice is typically provided five days in advance of a planned outage. Notices of a rescheduled or cancellation are provided at least three days in advance whenever possible. However, unforeseen circumstances occasionally result in last-minute cancellations.

To learn more about PSPS and sign up for alerts visit sce.com/wildfire/psps.

The City of Malibu also has a Public Safety Power Shutoff Training Guide and resource list to be prepared for a power outage. For more information, visit malibucity.org/psps.

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