The hurricane-force windstorm that swept through Pasadena last Wednesday evening, Nov. 30, through Thursday afternoon, Dec. 1, provided evidence once again that we live in an extraordinary community. The record will show this to have been a storm of historic proportion, and the people of Pasadena responded with commitment and concern, and with grace and gratitude.
I want to commend everyone in Pasadena – at City Hall and in our neighborhoods and business community – for their courage and commitment. As the recovery effort proceeds, thank you for your continued patience and courage.
There are wonderful stories around the City of individuals who stepped forward to address problems at their own residences and those of their neighbors. Hundreds of people served as their own first responders, caring for the immediate needs of family, friends and neighbors—exactly what neighborhoods train for, to be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours whenever there is a major emergency. Once the winds subsided, residents assessed damage to their properties and worked side by side with neighbors to launch their own cleanup.
The windstorm provides an occasion for all of us to review the requirements of emergency recovery and the extent to which we are each prepared to handle that responsibility.
Through it all, City of Pasadena crews worked tirelessly around the clock, with assistance from other local government agencies and private contractors. What they accomplished during and after the storm was truly impressive, and I believe we all owe them a debt of gratitude. I also want to express gratitude to L.A. County Public Works, L.A. Department of Water and Power, and the municipal utilities of Burbank and Anaheim, who made extraordinary efforts to help Pasadena.
Setting aside customer communication problems mentioned below, City Hall expects that Pasadena’s recovery will be considered a best-practices example for other communities to learn from when disaster strikes.
On Thursday, Dec. 1, the emergency response effort unfolded like clockwork and with impressive success. During the nighttime hours of the storm, the entire Pasadena power system was at risk of catastrophic damage. By Thursday dawn, thanks to the quick and effective work of PWP crews, only 10 percent of our customers, about 6,300 accounts, were without power. Within 48 hours, that number had been reduced to less than one percent, or about 600 accounts, and at this point, December 8, power has been restored for all customers who reported outages except for accounts requiring further work, such as tree removal or work by a private electrician. Tree removal by PWP and Public Works is ongoing. PWP is in communication with each customer as this work proceeds.
Any customer still without service and not in communication with PWP should call (626) 744-4673 so the matter can be addressed.
Restoration of customer service turned out to be extremely complicated due to the unique circumstances, in many cases, of the cause for service interruption, the complexity of solutions and time required to implement, and the need to coordinate the activities of Pasadena Water and Power crews, the Public Works Department and property owners. Although crews were working emergency 32-hour shifts with limited rest periods since the disaster began, communication with customers regarding the progress of work and the estimated time for completion was extremely difficult.
Many of the customers whose service was interrupted have experienced extreme and unusual hardship, and I want to express sympathy and concern to them and to offer a commitment that every lesson that can be learned from this experience will be brought to bear in our emergency preparation for the future.
In the weeks ahead, public meetings will be held to review our experience in regard to this disaster and the recovery. I hope that many members of the public will take time to share their experiences and offer their suggestions. Such information is important because it will inform our response and recovery for future natural disasters. Our purpose is not to find fault and blame, but to discover everything we can from recent experience.
The windstorm took a structural, monetary and emotional toll on Pasadena from which it will take time to recover. The City Council ratified a declaration of local state of emergency, which paves the way legally for the City to apply for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other possible sources. For damage to private property, insurance adjusters have been working overtime.
I encourage everyone to visit www.cityofpasadena.net/disaster for information about being prepared for emergencies, including free training opportunities.
Once again, I am grateful for every City employee, resident, volunteer, community-based organization and business that has assisted in the response and recovery effort. With continued determination, this City will soon emerge from the task of recovery.
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