Traffic signals, street lights and crossing signals remain dark at sunset in Cardiff, CA on the night of September 8th. Mike Blake- Reuters photoFederal regulators are looking into the cause of a prolonged blackout that left millions of people without electricity in southern California, Western Arizona and the northern part of Baja California, Mexico on Thursday afternoon and on into the early morning hours of Friday.
Arizona Public Service Co. said that the problems began at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday when a 115-mile high-power line that runs from west of Phoenix to the Yuma area switched out of service.The cascading power failures that were supposed to be localized around Yuma instead made their way west, knocking out power at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating station.
APS had an employee working in the Yuma-area substation where the line connects, but officials are unsure if that worker caused the line's failure, said Daniel Froetscher, APS vice president of energy delivery.
"We don't know whether it was related, but we have been very transparent with the work we were doing there, and will investigate whether there is a relationship," he said.
Power wasn't lost immediately, with the first customer calls coming about 10 minutes after the line's failure, so APS will investigate what actually prompted Yuma-area customers to lose service, he said.
"The system has contingencies," he said. "It is designed to withstand the loss of a single line feed. For about 10 minutes or so, there were no interruptions of service. The system performed as intended."
About 56,000 APS customers lost service throughout Yuma, Somerton, San Luis and Gadsden.
Those power outages cascaded west into California, where the high-power transmission line switches from APS control to the California power grid operator.
APS will investigate what allowed the problems to spread, rather than be contained by the protections built into the power system.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, North American Electric Reliability Corp. and other entities also announced Friday they would investigate the outage, possibly leading to fines.
In the San Diego area, flights at Lindbergh field were halted and classes at local schools and universities were cancelled. Some beaches were shut down as nearly 2 million gallons of untreated sewage spilled into the water.
Power was restored by the early morning hours on Friday, but not before restaurants in the region experienced losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in food that had to be discarded when refrigeration didn't work and labor when many eateries simply shut their doors to the public. Even though power had returned by Friday morning, hundreds of facilities had to remain closed until a health department alert regarding potentially dangerous tap water was lifted.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the designated media cheerleaders for the Obama Administration have insisted that the international power failure validates President Obama's call for additional stimulus spending to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.
Thursday's blackout was the most widespread since the August 2003 blackout that left a large swath of the Northeast as well as parts of the Midwest and the province of Ontario without electricity [I remember the 2003 blackout well. I was in rural upstate New York, blissfully unaware that there was any significant power outage for at least two hours until I drove into this one small town where their one stoplight wasn't working and their one policeman was directing traffic- NANESB!] That blackout left metropolitan areas such as New York City, Cleveland, Buffalo and Toronto without power at the height of rush hour.
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