Southern California Blackouts in San Diego, South Orange County During Heatwave | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Southern California Blackouts in San Diego, South Orange County During Heatwave

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Fri, Sep 9, 2011 at 12:31 AM

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SDG&E announced early this morning that power was fully restored "sooner than anticipated." And, at the bottom, California electricity officials issue a "flex-alert" for the entire state.

A power outage affecting all of San Diego County has been reported today, and now we're seeing tweets that the lights have gone out in Dana Point, Laguna Niguel and Mission Viejo. [Added]: The San Diego Union-Tribune now says this thing goes from Arizona to Baja Califorina to South Orange County. We're estimating that if all of San Diego and TJ are out this could potentially affect 5 million people.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune San Diego Gas & Electric is working on the outage.

South Orange County is covered by that utility and others, we believe, namely Southern California Edison.

According to the U-T, Tijuana, Tecate and Mexicali were also without power.

click to enlarge Blackout traffic in downtown San Diego. - @B_WALKER
  • @B_Walker
  • Blackout traffic in downtown San Diego.

KABC 790 AM radio reports that the San Diego outage affects 200,000 people, but that could be a low number if this is a countywide blackout reaching even to Orange County and Tijuana. That's an area that covers about 5 million people.

[Added]: KNX 1070 Newsradio says San Diego has activated its Emergency Operations Center in response to the blackout. The station says it started about 3:45 p.m. and has spread to some of the Southwest. (Actually the U-T says the outages started about 3:30 p.m.).

The station notes that all Southern California air traffic is controlled by the FAA out of San Diego, which is using back-up power from a generator.

The U-T stated that flights in and out of San Diego International Airport (Lindbergh Field) were still on-schedule.

The paper reports San Diego Zoo has been closed in reaction to the outage.

Update: SDG&E tweets that the utility lost a major power connection(s) between California and Arizona and that "this could could go into tomorrow in some areas."

KNX says a line from a plant in Arizona went out, triggering the outage, which the utility says was sparked by a domino effect:

Think of the system as linked by springs, when one part goes out the rest are affected.

SDG&E says 1.4 million people are effected.

"We have two connections to the rest of the world ... both of those connections were severed," an SDG&E official told reporters during a news conference aired at KNX..

"There was no indication that this event was caused by terrorism," he said.

Update No. 2: Southern California Edison tells the Weekly it has as many as 2,000 customers without power in South Orange County and parts of Riverside County.

SCE runs the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Spokeswoman Lois Pitter Bruce told us that it went offline at 3:38 p.m. Whether that was a cause or effect for this whole thing is not known.

"Two San Onofre units to tripped offline at approximately 3:38 this afternoon," she said. "The shutdown is proceeding safely."

She adds:

"Edison is working with Cal ISO to determine the grid factors that caused the outage."

Bruce said that San Onofre is shared by Edison and SDG&E.

The L.A. Department of Water and Power says so far so good here. In fact, it tweets, the system is humming so well that it has offered excess power to San Diego:

LADWP's system has adequate capacity. We are offering assistance with excess power generation to the grid.

KNX says flights out of San Diego have been halted.

SDG&E tweets:

power could be out through the night and into tomorrow.

The outage goes from Yuma, Arizona to Ensenada, Mexico to parts of Riverside and South Orange County at this point.

[Added]: Scary tweet from SDG&E:

If you have a personal family emergency plan, please activate it now.

The utility indicated that the severing of its power trunk line from Arizona could have triggered this. It also said tweeted that the heat (e.g. folks using too much power via air conditioning) " ... could have had an impact."

Update No. 3: The California Independent System Operator issued this statement (via City News Service):

The California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO) issued a

transmission emergency after a major system disturbance occurred between Arizona and Southern California and caused all of San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) and a small portion of Southern California Edison customers to lose power.

The outage was triggered after a 500-kilovolt (kV) high-voltage line from Arizona to California tripped out of service. The transmission outage cut the flow of imported power into the most southern portion of California, resulting in wide-spread outages in the region.

The ISO is coordinating with SDG&E as well as neighboring utilities including Southern California (Edison) and utilities in Arizona and Mexico, during restoration of service, which is being managed by SDG&E.

KNX says officials now estimate that more than 2 million people are effected.

[Added]: Here's what the U-T says happened:

The outage began at 3:38 p.m. when a transmission line running from Arizona to San Diego failed, triggering a cascade of events that then knocked the region's other electricity provider -- the San Onofre nuclear power plant -- offline.

Update No. 4: A statement by the Phoenix-based APS power company indicates that just one worker carrying out a "procedure" at its North Gila substation near Yuma set this whole thing off starting at 3:30 p.m:

Operating and protection protocols typically would have isolated the resulting outage to the Yuma area. The reason that did not occur in this case will be the focal point of the investigation into the event, which already is under way.

D'oh.

Whatever the employee did, it "tripped off" APS' "North Gila - Hassayampa 500 kV transmission line," one of the main feeders of juice to SDG&E, apparently. We're going to guess that, because SDG&E and Edison are both tied into San Onofre, which also tripped off as a result of the outage, that made the blackout bleed into some of Edison's customer base in South O.C. and Riverside County.

APS President and Chief Operating Officer Don Robinson:

We are working hard to restore our customers as quickly and safely as possible. We take great pride in our hard-earned reputation for safe and reliable service, and we will work hard to identify the cause.

SDG&E tweets that 18,000 customers in Orange County have power again.

Associated Press reports tonight that -- we called it -- "up to 5 million people" were in the dark tonight.

Meanwhile the U-T says that some folks won't get their juice back until Saturday.

Public school in San Diego was canceled for Friday.

And, in some parts of San Diego, water pressure was low and some residents were told to boil their tap water as a precaution.

Update No. 5: We have a source in the city of San Diego who says the lights went back on at 9:45 p.m. in his neighborhood.

"We have a ways to go but we're starting to see a little bit of progress right now," an SDG&E official said during a 10 p.m. news conference.

Meanwhile the San Juan Capistrano school district also canceled classes for tomorrow.

Perhaps Saturday was too dire a prediction for a return of electricity for most of those effected. SDG&E tweets that it is "hoping" that "most" of its customers will be back on line by tomorrow:

Power restored to parts of Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Escondido, Otay Mesa, Oceanside, Carlsbad. We're making progress!

Update No. 6: Cal ISO late Thursday issued (PDF) a flex-alert for the entire state, saying " ... conservation should be practiced all day" on Friday as a result of the San Diego outage.

[Added]: Early this morning SDG&E announced full restoration of power "sooner than expected." The utility credited conservation efforts in the region for the relatively speedy return of juice. More.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]

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