Huge blackout hits Southern California

Published: 3:21PM Friday September 09, 2011 Source: Reuters

  • Huge blackout hits Southern California (Source: Reuters)
    Source: Reuters

A massive power outage triggered by human error has left well over a million people without electricity in Southern California and parts of Arizona and Mexico, power utilities said, warning service might not be restored until tomorrow.

An ill-fated procedure by an Arizona power utility employee in a small town unleashed a chain of events which brought down power in a large swathe of the Southwest, the Arizona utility said.

A high-power line supplying electricity to Southern California failed first.

Minutes later, that led to a blockage at California's San Onofre nuclear energy plant, a second major source of power to the north of San Diego, which shut down, San Diego Gas and Electric said.

San Diego International Airport said it cancelled all outbound flights, traffic came to a standstill as the city's street lights quit and about 70 people had to be rescued by the city's fire department from stalled elevators.

But police in the second largest California city, located between Los Angeles and the Mexican border, reported no major problems and hospitals successfully switched to backup power, the Scripps Health chain said.

Local utility San Diego Gas and Electric said in a tweet that all 1.4 million of its customers were without power, while nearby utility Southern California Edison said the blackout had forced its two-unit San Onofre nuclear plant offline.

A spokeswoman said the plant had shut down safely.

Arizona utility APS said an employee near the small city of Yuma had carried out a "procedure" at a local substation which triggered the outage. System safeguards then failed to stop the problem spreading.

"There appears to be two failures here - one is human failure and the other is a system failure. Both of those will be addressed," spokesman Damon Gross said.

Urged to keep off roads

San Diego Gas and Electric has restored transmission to two major transmission lines involved in the crisis, but the company warned customers that power might not be restored overnight.

"Prepare to stay home tonight without power," the utility, owned by Sempra, told customers.

Blackouts hit Mexico's Northern Baja California state as well, knocking out power to hundreds of maquiladora export assembly plants in the sprawling industrial powerhouse of Tijuana, south of San Diego.

The blackouts knocked out stop lights at intersections across Tijuana, causing traffic snarl ups, and also cut power to hospitals and government offices

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With essentially all power off across the region served by San Diego Gas & Electric, the most immediate problem faced by the SDPD right now is rush-hour traffic without stop lights. Responders are rolling to accidents all over the city. The outage affects about 1.4 million SDG&E customers, and extends from south Orange County to at least Tijuana, from the Pacific Ocean across the desert to Arizona. The desert from Palm Springs through Imperial County is apparently without air conditioning this afternoon. Power may not be back up until late Friday.

SDG&E tweeted this a few minutes ago: "If you have a personal family emergency plan, please activate it now."

TSA has shut off security lines at San Diego's Lindbergh Field, the city's international airport.

The problem was a power outage in the line between Arizona and Southern California. Details have not yet been released. The nuclear reactors at San Onofre shut down, as they are supposed to when the power goes out. Backup generators apparently kicked in, again routinely.

In the desert, it has been one of the hottest days of the year, apparently. So long night ahead for people out there.


Nuclear plant shut down in wake of outage




 

08:45 PM PDT on Thursday, September 8, 2011
FROM STAFF REPORTS

The San Onofre nuclear power plant is shutting down as a safety precaution while utilities work with the state's power grid operators to determine what caused a widespread outage that hit Southern California just after 3:30 this afternoon.

According to San Diego Gas and Electric, the power outage originated with an Arizona grid that supplies power to much of Southern California, including Imperial, San Diego and Orange counties. The Arizona line went down, partially due to the September heat wave.

Widespread outages have also been reported throughout the Coachella Valley in Riverside County.

Story continues below
AP
A San Diego police official directs traffic after a power outage Thursday in San Diego. The outage is affecting millions of people across Southern California, Arizona and Mexico.

In San Diego, all 1.4 million of San Diego Gas and Electric's customers were without power due to a a 500kV high-voltage line transmission line that went down from Arizona to California. Both power lines to San Diego County were cut off. There is no estimated time for it to be restored.

"Our crews are working to restore power, but it may be until tomorrow before power is back on to the entire region," San Diego power officials said in a statement. "Hot days in a row like we have had create lots of power flowing. Could have had an impact. Think of the system as linked by springs, when one part goes out the rest are affected."

A spokeswoman for the Imperial Irrigation District, which serves Riverside County from the Indio area east to the border as well as Imperial County, said the district's most of the district's customers lost power at least for a short time, but were slowly being brought back on line.

"We have our own generation and transmission, so we can get people back on line," said Marion Champion, a spokeswoman for the district which oversees utilities in the eastern Coachella Valley and points east in Riverside County as well as predominantly agricultural Imperial County.

Champion said some of her district's customers were without power for as little as 20 minutes and that the utility continues to work toward full restoration.

The American Red Cross of Riverside County is "on standby and ready to assist" if Riverside County sets up a shelter for those affected by the massive power outage, Red Cross spokeswoman Lois Beckman said.

"We're calling volunteers to have people in place," Beckman said.

Riverside County is discussing whether to open an emergency shelter in Indio to house people affected by the outage, county spokesman Ray Smith said.

Staff with the county's Office of Emergency Services are mobilized at county buildings in Riverside and Indio to deal with the effects of the outage, he said.

Mayor: Stay Indoors

Indio Mayor Lupe Ramos Watson said power was restored to major commercial areas in the city, such as along Highway 111, shortly after the outage.

The entire city experienced a power surge at about 3:30 p.m., she said. The Imperial Irrigation District restored power to businesses in the commercial areas shortly afterward and is gradually restoring power to homes, she said.

The city is recommending that residents not leave their homes unless they have to, Ramos Watson said.

"We're asking people to stay put" to avoid clogging streets and blocking emergency vehicles, she said.

The city suggests that people who need to escape extremely hot homes go to businesses to keep cool, she said. Temperatures in Indio have been well above 100 degrees today. Most residents, though, appear to be staying in their homes, Ramos Watson said.

Ramos Watson was speaking by cell phone from the Red Robin restaurant at Highway 111 and Washington Street in La Quinta. Most people at the restaurant are senior citizens and families with young children, she said.

Indio is communicating with residents in several ways, including its Facebook page, she said. WiFi is still working in the city, she said.

Southern California Edison has reported that 117 of its customers have been affected in Fallbrook, Murrieta and San Juan Capistrano.

Officials believe it's related to the same blackout that has affected all of San Diego County, the Coachella Valley and parts of Orange County.

Murrieta emergency dispatchers had no reports of outages.

Story continues below
AP
Deborah Springs shops in a convenience store for food items after a power outage Thursday in San Diego.

Classes Canceled

In the meantime, Palomar College, a popular destination for students in southwestern Riverside County, has canceled all evening classes due to the power outage.

According to a message at its San Marcos campus, the power outage has led to campus security to block off all entrances to the college "Due to the lack of electricity in three counties... for health and safety reasons."

The community college is a commuter school off Interstate 15 for students in San Diego County, utilized by many students in the Temecula and Murrieta area.

Officials at Cal State San Marcos advised students to check the website after 10 p.m. for more information about tomorrow's schedule.

Palomar College officials said students should check the college website before heading to campus tomorrow.

San Diego's Woes

San Diego was most affected by the outage.

As of 6:12 p.m. no flights were departing San Diego International Airport but the airport was still allowing airlines to land at the airport.

The only exceptions were eight Southwest flights that already had passengers on board from a previous leg who wouldn't need to go through security again.

As the sun set Thursday night, airport staff worked to move travelers from areas of the terminal past security and back to more illuminated ticket counter areas where emergency lighting had kicked in and there might be more air. The airport's air-conditioning units had shut off because of the power outage.

Diana Lucero, a spokeswoman for the airport, said there was no estimate for when outbound flights would resume. She urged travelers to contact their airline to determine the status of their flights.

San Diego International Airport appeared to be the only Southern California commercial airport affected by the blackout. According to the airport's Twitter alerts, San Diego had been affected by the power outage starting around 4 p.m. Thursday. Any flights between other Southern California airports and San Diego, including Los Angeles International Airport, were also delayed as a result.

The blackout had no effect on Federal Aviation Administration operations at any of the airports, said agency spokesman Ian Gregor.

Flights out of other airports, including Ontario International, Palm Springs and John Wayne in Orange County were unaffected and running as normal.

Traffic is snarled in north San Diego County because of the widespread power outage, said Melanie Norton, spokeswoman for the Temecula Valley Unified School District.

Norton, who lives in Carlsbad, said it took her twice as long to get home this evening as it normally would because so many traffic lights are out.

"It usually takes 45 minutes and it took me an hour and a half," Norton said.

Traffic lights around Cal State San Marcos were all out, she said, but some lights were working between San Marcos and Carlsbad.

Unaffected by the Outage

Only the parts of the Coachella Valley served by Imperial Irrigation District appear to be affected by the power outage, said Tom Kirk, executive director of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments.

According to reports Kirk is receiving, Palm Springs , Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and most of Indian Wells, which are served by Southern California Edison, still have power, he said.

"There's a power outage?" asked La Vonna Jones, a personal assistant in Palm Desert.

Jones said she had been running errands and shopping in several areas of the city in the central Coachella Valley -- including along Highway 111, and Country Club Drive, Bob Hope and Fred Waring drives -- and the power was on everywhere she traveled.

Power appears to be on in all of Palm Springs, said Julius Kazen, president of the Palm Springs Hospitality Association.

Kazen, director of operations at Spa Resort Casino, said he was just in downtown Palm Springs and it was business as usual, with vendors setting up for the weekly street fair.

Cathedral City Councilman Chuck Vasquez confirmed that his city has power, and residents and business leaders in Palm Springs and Palm Desert reported that their communities had electricity./p>

Kirk said his south La Quinta home was still without power when he left about an hour ago to drive his son to soccer practice. He packed a cooler with milk to make sure it doesn't spoil, he said./p>

Kirk said his home "was hot but not intolerable," with air conditioning from earlier in the day providing some residual cooling./p>

If power isn't restored, "It could be a stuffy night," he said.

Power was being restored to some streets a few blocks from his home, said Kirk, who saw street lights coming on./p>

Some people appeared to be escaping their hot homes. As Kirk and his son drove through La Quinta "we certainly saw restaurants that had a back-up power source were well-packed," he said./p>


Nuclear plant shut down in wake of outage



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08:45 PM PDT on Thursday, September 8, 2011
FROM STAFF REPORTS

The San Onofre nuclear power plant is shutting down as a safety precaution while utilities work with the state's power grid operators to determine what caused a widespread outage that hit Southern California just after 3:30 this afternoon.

According to San Diego Gas and Electric, the power outage originated with an Arizona grid that supplies power to much of Southern California, including Imperial, San Diego and Orange counties. The Arizona line went down, partially due to the September heat wave.

Widespread outages have also been reported throughout the Coachella Valley in Riverside County.

Story continues below
AP
A San Diego police official directs traffic after a power outage Thursday in San Diego. The outage is affecting millions of people across Southern California, Arizona and Mexico.

In San Diego, all 1.4 million of San Diego Gas and Electric's customers were without power due to a a 500kV high-voltage line transmission line that went down from Arizona to California. Both power lines to San Diego County were cut off. There is no estimated time for it to be restored.

"Our crews are working to restore power, but it may be until tomorrow before power is back on to the entire region," San Diego power officials said in a statement. "Hot days in a row like we have had create lots of power flowing. Could have had an impact. Think of the system as linked by springs, when one part goes out the rest are affected."

A spokeswoman for the Imperial Irrigation District, which serves Riverside County from the Indio area east to the border as well as Imperial County, said the district's most of the district's customers lost power at least for a short time, but were slowly being brought back on line.

"We have our own generation and transmission, so we can get people back on line," said Marion Champion, a spokeswoman for the district which oversees utilities in the eastern Coachella Valley and points east in Riverside County as well as predominantly agricultural Imperial County.

Champion said some of her district's customers were without power for as little as 20 minutes and that the utility continues to work toward full restoration.

The American Red Cross of Riverside County is "on standby and ready to assist" if Riverside County sets up a shelter for those affected by the massive power outage, Red Cross spokeswoman Lois Beckman said.

"We're calling volunteers to have people in place," Beckman said.

Riverside County is discussing whether to open an emergency shelter in Indio to house people affected by the outage, county spokesman Ray Smith said.

Staff with the county's Office of Emergency Services are mobilized at county buildings in Riverside and Indio to deal with the effects of the outage, he said.

Mayor: Stay Indoors

Indio Mayor Lupe Ramos Watson said power was restored to major commercial areas in the city, such as along Highway 111, shortly after the outage.

The entire city experienced a power surge at about 3:30 p.m., she said. The Imperial Irrigation District restored power to businesses in the commercial areas shortly afterward and is gradually restoring power to homes, she said.

The city is recommending that residents not leave their homes unless they have to, Ramos Watson said.

"We're asking people to stay put" to avoid clogging streets and blocking emergency vehicles, she said.

The city suggests that people who need to escape extremely hot homes go to businesses to keep cool, she said. Temperatures in Indio have been well above 100 degrees today. Most residents, though, appear to be staying in their homes, Ramos Watson said.

Ramos Watson was speaking by cell phone from the Red Robin restaurant at Highway 111 and Washington Street in La Quinta. Most people at the restaurant are senior citizens and families with young children, she said.

Indio is communicating with residents in several ways, including its Facebook page, she said. WiFi is still working in the city, she said.

Southern California Edison has reported that 117 of its customers have been affected in Fallbrook, Murrieta and San Juan Capistrano.

Officials believe it's related to the same blackout that has affected all of San Diego County, the Coachella Valley and parts of Orange County.

Murrieta emergency dispatchers had no reports of outages.

Story continues below
AP
Deborah Springs shops in a convenience store for food items after a power outage Thursday in San Diego.

Classes Canceled

In the meantime, Palomar College, a popular destination for students in southwestern Riverside County, has canceled all evening classes due to the power outage.

According to a message at its San Marcos campus, the power outage has led to campus security to block off all entrances to the college "Due to the lack of electricity in three counties... for health and safety reasons."

The community college is a commuter school off Interstate 15 for students in San Diego County, utilized by many students in the Temecula and Murrieta area.

Officials at Cal State San Marcos advised students to check the website after 10 p.m. for more information about tomorrow's schedule.

Palomar College officials said students should check the college website before heading to campus tomorrow.

San Diego's Woes

San Diego was most affected by the outage.

As of 6:12 p.m. no flights were departing San Diego International Airport but the airport was still allowing airlines to land at the airport.

The only exceptions were eight Southwest flights that already had passengers on board from a previous leg who wouldn't need to go through security again.

As the sun set Thursday night, airport staff worked to move travelers from areas of the terminal past security and back to more illuminated ticket counter areas where emergency lighting had kicked in and there might be more air. The airport's air-conditioning units had shut off because of the power outage.

Diana Lucero, a spokeswoman for the airport, said there was no estimate for when outbound flights would resume. She urged travelers to contact their airline to determine the status of their flights.

San Diego International Airport appeared to be the only Southern California commercial airport affected by the blackout. According to the airport's Twitter alerts, San Diego had been affected by the power outage starting around 4 p.m. Thursday. Any flights between other Southern California airports and San Diego, including Los Angeles International Airport, were also delayed as a result.

The blackout had no effect on Federal Aviation Administration operations at any of the airports, said agency spokesman Ian Gregor.

Flights out of other airports, including Ontario International, Palm Springs and John Wayne in Orange County were unaffected and running as normal.

Traffic is snarled in north San Diego County because of the widespread power outage, said Melanie Norton, spokeswoman for the Temecula Valley Unified School District.

Norton, who lives in Carlsbad, said it took her twice as long to get home this evening as it normally would because so many traffic lights are out.

"It usually takes 45 minutes and it took me an hour and a half," Norton said.

Traffic lights around Cal State San Marcos were all out, she said, but some lights were working between San Marcos and Carlsbad.

Unaffected by the Outage

Only the parts of the Coachella Valley served by Imperial Irrigation District appear to be affected by the power outage, said Tom Kirk, executive director of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments.

According to reports Kirk is receiving, Palm Springs , Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and most of Indian Wells, which are served by Southern California Edison, still have power, he said.

"There's a power outage?" asked La Vonna Jones, a personal assistant in Palm Desert.

Jones said she had been running errands and shopping in several areas of the city in the central Coachella Valley -- including along Highway 111, and Country Club Drive, Bob Hope and Fred Waring drives -- and the power was on everywhere she traveled.

Power appears to be on in all of Palm Springs, said Julius Kazen, president of the Palm Springs Hospitality Association.

Kazen, director of operations at Spa Resort Casino, said he was just in downtown Palm Springs and it was business as usual, with vendors setting up for the weekly street fair.

Cathedral City Councilman Chuck Vasquez confirmed that his city has power, and residents and business leaders in Palm Springs and Palm Desert reported that their communities had electricity./p>

Kirk said his south La Quinta home was still without power when he left about an hour ago to drive his son to soccer practice. He packed a cooler with milk to make sure it doesn't spoil, he said./p>

Kirk said his home "was hot but not intolerable," with air conditioning from earlier in the day providing some residual cooling./p>

If power isn't restored, "It could be a stuffy night," he said.

Power was being restored to some streets a few blocks from his home, said Kirk, who saw street lights coming on./p>

Some people appeared to be escaping their hot homes. As Kirk and his son drove through La Quinta "we certainly saw restaurants that had a back-up power source were well-packed," he said./p>

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