Residents Are Fuming at Edison After Power Surge Zaps Appliances : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Friday, April 6, 2001

Residents Are Fuming at Edison After Power Surge Zaps Appliances

By TIMOTHY HUGHES, Times Staff Writer

CAMARILLO--Energy crisis? What energy crisis? Dozens of homeowners along Sterling Hills Drive got way more electricity than they wanted this week when a power surge blew through the upscale neighborhood, destroying big-screen televisions, computers, VCRs, electric ovens and sprinkler systems.

More than 40 homes were affected by the brief surge, which Southern California Edison officials say was likely caused by two high-voltage lines that crossed, sending a powerful jolt into homes in the 2-year-old development. Four days after the incident, residents were still fighting with the utility Thursday over compensation for damages. They want Edison to replace their appliances and other electronic equipment. But they say just getting Edison--plagued with its own financial troubles tied to the unrelated state energy crisis--to respond to their complaints is problematic.

"Never have I seen anything like this," homeowner Janice Alpert said. "They can raise electric prices, but they can't answer our calls." Denise Jopes, who lives across the street from Alpert, said she heard a loud boom Sunday morning before discovering that her 25-inch television and other electrical equipment were ruined. She said damage to appliances from the surge would top $2,000.

Moisture from an early morning mist that shrouded the city last weekend could have caused power lines to cross, Edison spokesman Steven Conroy said. But it also could have been a malfunctioning piece of equipment, he said, adding that the company's investigation is continuing. If Edison determines that its equipment failed, the power company will reimburse customers who file claims, Conroy said.

But if the investigation concludes that bad weather is to blame, residents will be out of luck. "Weather is not in our control," Conroy said. Other Edison officials have said there are no guarantees against a similar surge in the future and that even the finest protective plugs are vulnerable.

Some residents still can't use many of their appliances. "I'm going to have to water my lawn with a hose," said Doug Appleton, a homeowner who awoke Sunday morning to find irreparable damage to his lighting and sprinkler systems. "My wife is seven months pregnant and I have to deal with this? I'm upset." Others took the setback in stride. "Hey, people here are well-to-do," said Richard Mantle, whose surge protector was useless against last weekend's incident. "What's a few hundred dollars when they are already paying what they're paying to fix these places up?" By 10 a.m. Thursday, Chris Leffler, a General Electric repairman who had started two hours earlier, had already installed three replacement digital oven controls.

One more and Leffler would be out of stock. "So are you here to take care of us?" a good-natured Appleton asked Leffler as the repairman lugged his last box. "Everybody is asking me questions, but I don't work for Edison," Leffler said. "It definitely adds to the workday."

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times

-- Martin Thompson (, April 07, 2001


This incident underscores the wisdom of purchasing, and then properly using high quality surge protectors, for all electrical circuits. Some of the better makes carry a guarantee to replace equipment, even expensive equipment, damaged by a surge such as this one. Be sure to read the fine print, and meet the technical requirements imposed, for coverage to be valid.

Y2K preparationists preparing for the "medium case" stockpiled surge protectors. After the rollover, additional surge protectors with guarantee were added. (What good is a guarantee if the Y2K outcome had been even moderately worse?) Stockpiling is needed, because surge protectors get "used up", and must be replaced after multiple small surges, or one bad one, such as this one. Hence, if your surge protectors either successfully protect (or reduce damage to) your equipment, or if you need to exercise your guarantee, replace them immediately.

More surges like this one have to be expected. Prepare accordingly. Some firms may drop or reduce equipment guarantee coverage if these incidents become common, and/or raise the surge protector price. So, act now. Surge protectors have been reasonably priced insurance, and are a good idea, Y2K or no Y2K.

-- Robert Riggs (, April 07, 2001.

I moved from the Big City where voltage was 117-118 to a small town where voltage is about 124 - they've got surplus. I bought an Intermatic surge protector for about $50.00 that covers my whole panel.

With all the talk about brownouts, it would be good to be protected from undervoltage too.

-- John littmann (LITTMANNJOHNTL@AOL.COM), April 08, 2001.

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