Los Angeles – Electricity was restored on Friday to all of the more than one million people who lost power after a massive shutdown that left homes in the dark from Southern California east to Arizona and south into Mexico.
San Diego Gas and Electric, which supplies power to much of the region, is investigating the precise cause of the blackout, but said on Friday that the problem had started with a transmission failure in western Arizona that caused a loss of power in its service areas in San Diego and southern Orange County. In addition, the utility said a major power-generating station had gone off-line.
In a statement on its Web site on Friday, the company said that it was focusing its “efforts over the next few days on maintaining and ensuring the integrity of the local power system,” and would then “turn its attention toward determining the sequence of events that led to the outage and establishing practices and procedures to ensure that outages such as the Sept. 8 event are not repeated.”
The utility, which serves 3.5 million customers, asked residents to conserve energy on Friday to prevent additional failures.
At the height of the failure on Thursday, about 1.4 million of the company’s customers were without power.
San Diego residents described a chaotic scene after the power went out around 4 p.m. Police officers were sent to busy intersections to direct traffic. Without the Internet, lights or any idea when power might return, workers headed home, only to turn back to the office after sitting in traffic that was even worse than usual.
All outbound flights from San Diego International Airport were stopped. Some inbound flights were allowed, but Rebecca Bloomfield, an airport spokeswoman, said many were diverted to other airports.
Jason Bump, who turned 38 on Thursday, had hoped to head home early to celebrate his birthday. But he was stranded in the parking lot of his office in Carlsbad, Calif., throwing a football around with co-workers.
“I almost took the day off for my birthday,” he said. “I probably should have.”
San Diego residents called friends around the country for updates on the blackout, as rumors flew about what was going on. Some people lucky enough to make it home organized neighborhood gatherings. Carrie Sandys bought the last of the ice from a corner store and planned a barbecue with her neighbors to use up their produce, now that their refrigerators were out.
They had meat and beer on ice, but still, they could not turn on the opening game of the National Football League season.