02 October 2010

Lightning Strike Downs Power Lines in Carbon Canyon (With 3-4 October Updates)!

Thunderstorms with lightning strikes hit our region from time to time, but yesterday's events were stronger than most.  The blistering hot weather (the all-time record high literally caused the National Weather Service's thermometer in Los Angeles to break at 113 degrees) on Monday gave way to cooler, but more humid, conditions the remainder of the week.  Consequently, Friday saw some showers, loud bursts of thunder, and a series of lightning strikes.

Friday afternoon at the eastern edge of Carbon Canyon Regional Park adjacent to the new Chino Hills State Park visitor center and the new access road to the Metropolitan Water District's Diemer water treatment plant, lightning hit power lines causing two poles to collapse, pulling down the equipment and lines.  Carbon Canyon Road was shut down in the early stages of the "rush hour" [on a Friday, no less] causing significant commuter headaches, while crews raced to clean up the damage and restore power on a temporary basis until full repairs can be completed.

The photos shown here were taken late this afternoon and convey a good idea of what happened.  Fortunately, there was either enough precipitation during the storm to moisten parched open areas or the lightning just didn't reach the places were fuel content and dry conditions were present to start wildfires.  Of course, snapped power lines or surges can cause sparks that set off brush, as occurred not long ago in the eastern part of Carbon Canyon in Chino Hills.

Weather forecasts call for cooler and drier conditions starting tomorrow.  Sometime soon, however, the Santa Anas will come a-blowing in hot, dry weather, so we'll see what Mother Nature has in store for us during the remainder of Fall!

3 October UPDATE!  A couple of hours ago, friend of the blog Canyon Native left this comment, "I was told by police officers on traffic control duty there (as well as a report in the OC Register) that a traffic accident caused the power lines to topple.

This, too, was my understanding initially, but when I scoured the internet for news reports (thinking this was the likeliest place for reliable info), here's what I found Friday from "MyFoxLA.com," the site for Fox News 11:

Fullerton - Thunderstorms caused power outages today for thousands of Southern California Edison customers throughout northern Orange County, and prompted the closure of Fullerton Community College.

"We have reports of thousands of customers experiencing outages due to lightning," said Steve Conroy of Southern California Edison. He said an estimated 4,000 customers lost power at least briefly during the fast-moving squall.

Outages were reported in Fullerton, Brea, Westminster, Garden Grove, Stanton, Villa Park and Yorba, Conroy said.

Power lines hit by lightning were down at Carbon Canyon Park in Brea, he said."

Also yesterday, from the OC Register's "OC Science" feature:

The lightning strikes caused flickering lights and power outages in other cities, too, including Garden Grove, Yorba Linda, Westminster and Brea, a Southern California Edison spokeswoman said, while power lines were down after being hit by lightning in Carbon Canyon Park in Brea.
Other news outlets (the LA Times, NBC news, and others) have reported from the same information. 
Here's what is on the Edison web site as of very early this AM:
City : BREA Zip Code : 92821

Start Date & Time : Sunday, October 03, 2010 2:07 AM

Issue : There is currently a widespread power outage in this area.

Trees have come in contact with our equipment causing power lines to go down.

Status : Our first response team has completed initial repairs; additional repair crews have been notified and will be responding.

Repairs may be delayed due to additional personnel being needed.

Monday, 4 October:  Here is another source of information from the City of Chino Hills emergency e-mail notification system, sent out on Friday mid-afternoon:

Carbon Canyon is closed starting at the Brea City limits due to a major non-fatal accident on Carbon Canyon Road.  Extensive damage to electric power lines occurred resulting in a road closure.  Carbon Canyon Road is closed from Lambert Road/Valencia Avenue to Carbon Canyon/Olinda Drive.  Edison repair workers will be on site throughout the night to restore power. The road closure is necessary to expedite repairs and for public safety.  Please plan to use alternate routes and allow for extra travel time. Carbon Canyon is expected to reopen by sunrise on Saturday, October 2, 2010.

Assuming "accident" is defined broadly, it appears the cause was a lightning strike on a tree, from which a part hit the power lines, causing the toppling of poles and equipment.  In fact, the photos at the very top and below may show where the problem occurred at the edge of the regional park.


CanyonNative said...

Paul, your information is always timely and accurate, but I was told by police officers on traffic control duty there (as well as a report in the OC Register) that a traffic accident caused the power lines to topple. I know we were out of power in Olinda Village from 9:15 am Friday until almost midnight.
Could you investigate the cause further and report back on your blog?
Thanks from a faithful reader.

CanyonNative said...

Thanks, Paul
The poles certainly looked splintered well above car level, but I assumed the traffic officer was right. I appreciate the clarification. We are all too lucky that we did not face a major fire in the Canyon as well.

prs said...

Hi CanyonNative, I added another bit of info from an emergency notification service sent on Friday. Thanks for the comments!

Anonymous said...

Great photos!!
I am a local storm chaser in Chino Hills, CA and I arrived on scene just as the fire dept. and police arrived as I was passing through the canyon headed towards the storm. It was in fact struck by lightning! Didn't happen to see the strike, but did get video as officers arrived on scene and traffic came to a hault. The next day I stopped by the scene and could actually smell the burnt pole! (I'm a total lightning nerd, so this was a cool find for me!)

Anyway, awesome photos!! I was so happy to come across someone else who realized this occurrence!

-Sean Mclaughlin

prs said...

Hi Sean, thanks for visiting and for the comment. As you well know, lightning, while not as common here as elsewhere in the US, does cause wildfires. The irony here is that, on the Chino Hills side of Carbon Canyon, we are cited for not keeping tree branches out of power lines. Yet, here, the county did not keep due diligence. If that tree had been trimmed properly, it is unlikely the poles would have been toppled.