A massive power outage hit Southern California, Arizona and northern Mexico for 12 hours yesterday, disrupting the lives of many of the six million people who live in the region.
But, as of 4:30 a.m. this morning, power had been restored to nearly all 1.4 million SDG&E customers by the “energizing” of more than 1,000 distribution circuits and 100 substations, according to a company official at a press conference and the SDG&E Twitter account. However, the system still remains fragile and officials are asking that users conserve power.
• Los Angeles Times summarizes the 4:30 a.m. press conference and Associated Press says “power returning.“
Today and in coming days we’ll be tracking the explanations for what happened. Like you, we want to know why it happened and what can be done to prevent it. The power doesn’t just turn off for millions for no reason. Who is accountable? Who is responsible?
Meantime, here’s a roundup of what we know so far:
• The outage, which appears to be the biggest in the state’s history, was apparently caused by a problem at a power substation in Arizona that sent devastating ripples across Southern California, the U-T reports.
“Just before 3:30 p.m., a worker at the substation replaced monitoring equipment that had been causing trouble earlier in the day. That created a short-term power outage for about 56,000 customers in Yuma and western Arizona, said APS, Arizona’s largest electric utility, which runs the substation.
Ten minutes later, workers at the substation unsuccessfully tried to restore power to the region, shorting the circuits. That led to a disruption in the electricity lines across Imperial County to San Diego — one of the county’s two major sources of electricity.”
• Video of an SDG&E official discussing the outage. (NBC7 San Diego)
• Estimates of the number of people affected in four counties, two states and two countries were in the millions. The LA Times has a map of the affected areas.
• Baja California newspaper El Mexicano reports that the “mega apagón” passed with total public calm in the affected parts of Baja California and Sonora. Across the border region in both countries there were no reports of panic-buying or blackout-related robberies.
• All public schools — including colleges and universities — will be closed today (U-T), and all (or almost all) private schools will be shut, too. Some school football games, including SDSU’s game against Army, will still continue (NBC7 San Diego).
• A boil-water alert has been issued for some communities (NBC7 San Diego). Also, two failed sewage pumps contaminated a lagoon and a river (LA Times).
• It may be a while before the trolley gets back up to speed, the U-T reports. The airport had plenty of problems too. Amtrak and the Coaster and Sprinter remained online because they are diesel-powered.
• From the “Department of Who Knew?”: Looting during a local emergency is a felony. (NC Times)
• Now we know why it’s a good idea to always keep at least a quarter tank of gas: few local gas pumps have generators to keep them operating when the power’s out. (U-T)
• The fact that stoplights become four-way stops in an outage either isn’t well-known enough or not obeyed enough. Or maybe both. Just ask me, my overworked car horn or the 21-year-old woman who talked to the L.A. Times about her “hectic” journey out of downtown, exacerbated by this very problem.
• The Los Angeles Times has a photo gallery of the blackout experience, as does the does the Union-Tribune. Share your photos on our Facebook page.
County Supervisor to Step Down
Now here’s one we didn’t see coming. The county board of supervisors’ streak — the same five white, Republican members for 16 years — will come to an end, the NC Times reports. After 20 years on the board, board member Pam Slater-Price will step down at the end of next year, when the seat is up for grabs on the ballot.
Slater-Price, a former mayor and councilwoman in Encinitas, earlier said she would run again.
Foes Can’t Kill Fee on Local Cars
Two San Diego city council members, a Republican and a Democrat, failed to stop a local agency from continuing to collect $1 fees on vehicle registrations in the county, the U-T reports. The agency operates call boxes on local roads.
The Mayoral Portrait Project: Nathan Fletcher on the Beach
Nathan Fletcher, the next subject in our series of photographs of the leading mayoral candidates, chose to pose next to the pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
“The beach represents a lot of our culture, a lot of our community,” said the assemblyman. “We’re also at a location here at Scripps at UCSD that represents a lot of the innovative spirit of San Diego. So I thought it was the perfect location between our culture and our economy, and then a place that’s important to me personally.”
Our opinion and commentary section has a new name — Fix San Diego — but its mission hasn’t changed. “It’s a place where you can have conversations about how to make San Diego a better place to live, work and play,” writes Grant Barrett. “It’s about providing solutions, not just identifying problems.”
Send us your ideas about how to improve our community and don’t worry if you don’t think you’re articulate. We’re here to help you make you solutions sparkle.
Questioning Bill Walton’s Park-Planning Smarts
Several commenters aren’t impressed that basketball icon Bill Walton stood in front of cameras this week and promoted the Balboa Park makeover that’s being pushed by the mayor and a local billionaire philanthropist. “Bill Walton knows basketball. Jerry Sanders knows the police code and City Hall. Irwin Jacobs knows electronics and business,” writes Dan Soderberg. “None of them have expertise in urban park planning.”
Fred Williams offered this: “A basketball player with zero experience in these matters shows up to provide a superficial sales pitch and a crowd of journalist lackeys are salivating in his footsteps. Oh yes, Irwin Jacobs is a major supporter of VOSD, and a major beneficiary of its continued slanted coverage of this issue.”
However, Steven Dobbs fought back against the comments questioning Walton. “To disparage the motivations of accomplished citizens who unnecessarily, publicly comment on things they sincerely care about disgusts me. Bill Walton did not need to do this. He cares enough about the Park to want to do it.”
Correcting a Claim
Yesterday’s Morning Report imprecisely described a claim — which San Diego Fact Check found false — by the president of the Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council. He said signatures from 5,600 residents of the community “were more people than [San Diego’s Redistricting Commission] heard from the entire eight to 10 months of testimony they’ve taken, emails they’ve received, written comments they’ve received and other petitions from other communities they’ve received.”
Community Theater on Steroids
The Old Globe is reaching out to the community by including much of it in a new production called “Odyssey.” The director says she’s inspired by how so many folks here are not from here.
The “stories of home, and the journeys people take to get home,” inspired her, she says, so she and a composer/lyricist have created a San Diego-centered version of Homer’s epic poem “Odyssey.”
Explaining San Diego Redistricting
San Diego Explained, our video series, takes a look at the controversial effort to redraw the boundaries of San Diego’s City Council districts.
A Bouncing Baby Blackout
Here’s one way to stay cool with the power out. At Cal State San Marcos, students created a slip-and-slide and held a “blackout party” yesterday, complete with a big barbecue and milk-guzzling contests. A church, meanwhile, held a concert and barbecue with borrowed generators. (NCT)
At UCSD, beer kept flowing at the pub. “Some guy just swallowed a sword,” some other guy told the LA Times.
Despite some urban legends, birth rates didn’t actually go up in New York City nine months after the Great Blackout of 1965. Other big events, from 9/11 to ice storms, don’t seem to have had an effect on fertility, either.
Do you have a blackout anecdote to share? A moment of courage, humor, hope or dismay? Send it along in email or post it to our Facebook page.
Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.