Large Portion of Los Angeles Loses Power
Newsday | September 12, 2005
By Sharon Bernstein
|Before most power was restored about 2:30 p.m., elevators stalled, traffic lights either went out or burned steadily green, and teachers tried to soothe worried schoolchildren.
Ron Deaton, head of the city Department of Water and Power, said at one point three of the city's four power generating stations in the Los Angeles Basin had shut down.
Deaton said two stations that receive power from the generators malfunctioned as a result of the severed cable.
Results then cascaded throughout DWP's massive system, automatically shutting down three of the four generating plants in the Los Angeles basin.
The outage hit about 12:45 p.m.. Lee Sapaden, a spokesman for the county's Office of Emergency Management, said the massive power failure was caused after an employee "inadvertently cut a power cable" at a DWP substation in West L.A.
Two of the three generating plants were restarted by 2 p.m., leaving workers to fan out across the city and restore power in individual neighborhoods. City officials said power was restored for 90% of those who lost it about 2 p.m.
The power plants that shut down were in Wilmington, Seal Beach and Playa del Rey. When the remaining plant could not keep up with demand, power automatically shut down to large swaths of the city, Deaton said..
Other areas were also impacted, including Burbank and Glendale.
Police in Los Angeles were put on full tactical alert, with numerous reports of traffic accidents because of dark streetlights. As a result, slow traffic was seen on some major thoroughfares.
LAPD headquarters and City Hall in downtown were also without power at times this afternoon.
Elevators went reported stalled in high rises along Wilshire Boulevard, where some workers reported getting stuck until backup generators came on.
About 150 public schools lost power for a few seconds to nearly 45 minutes, but the power outage appeared to cause little disruption to the school day.
At the Downtown Business Magnet campus on Temple Street, the nearly 700 students were evacuated when the lights went out about 1:00 p.m.
Los Angeles Police Lt. Paul Vernon said the outage involved "no terrorism or foul play."
He added that for the LAPD, "the main issue is traffic control."
Hospitals across Los Angeles reported power outages but all said their emergency generators immediately kicked in. Patient care was not disrupted.
Kaiser Permanente said four of its hospitals — South Bay, West Los Angeles, Panorama City and Los Angeles — lost power. Two people were rescued from elevators, but there was no impact on surgeries, spokesman Jim Anderson said.
Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys called a code yellow, as it would during an earthquake or plane crash, and set up a command center. Robert C. Bills, president of the 380-bed hospital, said backup power worked appropriately, as did hospital staff. Bills said the response was "reassuring."
"You're always concerned that things aren't going to work the way they should," Bills said. "We do this enough during the year with disaster preparedness drills that we were pretty sure we were in good shape — and we were."
At the Civic Center Red Line station, trains were running. One eyewitness said some of the lights went out briefly but not all power was lost. There was no panic, but people were frustrated about the delays.
"When you are down here, you don't know what is going on up there," he said.
Kiyoshi Parker, 26, of Hollywood said he was heading downtown to work as a cashier. He said his train was delayed about 10 minutes during the outage.
Southern California Edison spokesman Tom Boyd said Edison service was "unaffected" by the DWP power outage.
At the 60-story Aon building in downtown Los Angeles, Wells Fargo employee Sean Maddox waited through an hour-long power outage and nearly two hours without cell phone service.
"The office blackened, but the worst thing was it got hot real quick in here," Maddox said.
Workers huddled around an emergency radio to learn that the blackout was not isolated to their building. Some chose to leave work early, navigating the seven-story walk down the stairs, while others watched city streets from above.
"There was no real panic, but some just wanted out," Maddox said. "There's worry about whether the subway or Metrolink is working, and if we'll be able to get home."