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Power back for millions affected by blackout

September 9, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The power is back on Friday for millions of people affected by a massive blackout that covered San Diego, southern Orange County, Arizona and even parts of Mexico.

San Diego Gas & Electric said Friday morning that its workers were able to restore power sooner than expected. Power was restored at about 3:30 a.m. after a roughly 12-hour blackout.

The electricity went out Thursday afternoon, affecting parts of Southern California, Arizona and Mexico. At one point, as many as 6 million people were without service.

"We went out to dinner, we couldn't find any place to eat really," said Jonathan Kolb, who was visiting from East Brunswick, New Jersey. "A few places were serving food, and some places had drinks as well."

Jordan McInturf said he was visiting Southern California from Milton, Mass., where they were without power for two and a half days due to Hurricane Irene.

"We come here, and the power goes out again, so it's just kind of an ironic thing," he said. "We feel like we're a bad luck charm.

Authorities confirmed that an initial event was caused by human error at an Arizona substation. Employee was working on a capacitor, a device that keeps voltage levels high, when something led to a short circuit. It was not yet known what caused the short circuit.

The situation for travelers at Lindbergh Field was frustrating. Their flights were canceled because the airport had no way to screen passengers.

The outage also caused congestion on the roads because intersections that rely on traffic lights turned into four-way stops. Train and trolley service were also stopped.

The blackout also affected wireless service for some AT&T customers.

SDG&E said people who just got their power back should still conserve energy.

"Some of the power plants are not back in service, particularly the San Onofre power plant," Geier said.

David Geier, vice president of operations at SDG&E, said the system still is fragile, and it could take a while to figure out what caused the power outage.

SDG&E gave the following tips to conserve energy:

  • Use ceiling or portable fans instead of central air conditioning, if safety permits
  • Close blinds and drapes to keep the sunlight out during the warmer parts of the day
  • Open windows at night and during the cool part of the day.
  • Set you're air conditioner to 78 or higher, if safety permits
  • Keep air-conditioning vents clear
  • Keep windows, doors and fireplace dampers closed when using an air conditioner
  • Turn off the air conditioner when leaving the house
  • Avoid using non-essential electronics and appliances
  • See photos of people dealing with the massive power outage.

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