San Diego Power Outage Cancels Flights

More than 1.4 million San Diego Gas & Electric customers were without power Thursday

By Eric S. Page and Sarah Grieco
|  Thursday, Sep 8, 2011  |  Updated 10:02 PM PDT
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San Diego Gas and Electric President Mike Niggli explains the cause of the outage and how long it will take to come back online.

San Diego Gas and Electric President Mike Niggli explains the cause of the outage and how long it will take to come back online.

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A massive power outage knocked out electricity to about 5 million people in the southwest Thursday. San Diego was the hardest hit, but the outage also hit Arizona.  People were left in the dark from Orange County and to Tijuana.

The power outage was felt here in the Bay Area where two dozen canceled flights to and from San Diego airport. SFO reported 11 canceled flights. San Jose had at least three canceled flights and Oakland had four canceled flights. You can check for delays at this link or by calling your carrier.

San Diego's international airport remained open during the blackout, but no outbound flights were taking off. Some inbound flights were delayed or diverted, officials said. 

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

In a press release, the Arizona Public Service said one of its employees near Yuma caused the problem. ARP said the outage should have been isolated to Yuma and an investigation into why it spread is underway. "This was not a deliberate act. The employee was just switching out a piece of equipment that was problematic," said Dan Froetscher, a vice president at APS.

SDG&E said crews repaired the problem and were in the process of restarting the system but it would take several hours to actually generate power to customers.

"We expect power to be out well into the night and into tomorrow in some areas," a spokesman for the utility said shortly before 5 p.m.

A glimmer of hope came in the darkness when officials announced power was slowly returning, with some customers' service restored Thursday night. They said they hoped the majority of county resident would be back up by Friday afternoon. In the interim, they urged everyone to turn off whatever appliances they could so the system would not be overtaxed when power came back online.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sander held a media conference at 8 p.m., saying that as a precautionary measure prompted by problem with water pumps, city residents living in the communities of Otay Mesa, Scripps Ranch, La Jolla, Mount Soledad, Tierresanta and Scripps Ranch were under a mandatory boil-water order.

County and city officials announced late in the day that public schools were being closed on Friday, even if power returns. 

 

At the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, two units went off line around 3:38 p.m. The shutdown was part of standard procedure during a power outage, Southern California Edison said.

The shutdown was proceeding "safely" and "poses no danger to workers or the public," Edison said in a statement. "Offsite power is available for the plant's safety systems."

The FBI and SDG&E officials said the power outage was not related to a terror threat that officials notified the nation about at nearly the same time.

Earlier in the day, Sander's office asked people to stay off roads and to not use land-line phones.

San Diego City Hall was voluntarily evacuated after the outage. Some people were trapped in elevators inside the building but were later freed by firefighters.

The San Diego border along Mexico remained open, operating under backup power, authorities with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said..

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