The Great Blackout of 2011 – Tell Us Your Stories (send us your photos)

by on September 9, 2011 · 19 comments

in Energy, Popular, San Diego

Five million plus customers throughout Southern California, Arizona and Mexico lost power yesterday when what should have been a routine maintenance issue ended up cutting all power out f the Arizona grid. The interruption quickly cascaded through our other major other power source as the nuclear plants in San Onofre shut down thanks to built in safety measures. And there we were– no power. Voice of San Diego has a nice recap this morning with all the major media sources reporting in, and let there be no doubt that there will be plenty of finger pointing going on in the days ahead. All the usual finger pointer will be rounding the usual suspects looking to pin the blame on somebody in support of the ideological stance.  For now, given the lack of many actual facts, we’ll leave the blame game to the pros.

What we’d like to hear are your stories of what life was like during the blackout.  For my part, I spent the evening getting to know some of my neighbors better, sitting out in the court yard of our apartment building watch the moon and listening (some) to a battery powered radio for any info that was available. Share your stories. And no finger pointing. We’ll do that later in the week.

Editor: Here is our first photo, sent in by Brittany Bailey of some of her neighbors:

Here’s one from the Del Monte overlook, by Mark Robertson:

Sent to us from Dr. Warren M. Patch;

Wasn’t that fun?  When was the last time the neighbors came outside and shared such a fun event?  It was about 80 degrees, no wind, the stars were out due to lack of light pollution, the planes from Lindbergh field were grounded, I guess, because the sky was quiet.  We barbequed with the neighbors because they had a gas grill and a gas stove.  We had candles a nearly full moon and talked and drank wine and shared foot massages.  It was great.

Never mind the traffic jams and the gas shortages, this was an excellent time for a little taste of what California would be like without electricity following something like a major earthquake.

So, how prepared were you.  Well, this Boy Scout, for one, was partially stumped yesterday.  Not when I was on the golf course at 3:40 and didn’t miss the electric power.  Not when I went to the Club House Pro Shop and had the (young and surprised) bartender tap me a beer from the kegs that are CO2 charged–not electric. But when I got home (after playing a second round of golf and letting some of the traffic die down,) and headed for my stored and well-prepared emergency supply stuff garage–in the garage with the electric door opener–I was barred. That’s right; I couldn’t get in without electric power.  Ha ha ha.

Oh well, I’m going to have one more item on my Be Prepared list: the override key to disengage the electric garage door mechanism so I can roll it up by hand and get to all that stuff when I need it.

Dr. Patch

Here’s a photo of some Ragsters’ front porch, from Anna Daniels and Rich Kacmar:

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Goatskull September 9, 2011 at 12:04 pm

It took two and a half hours to get home from work (Point Loma up on Catalina BLVD to Hillcrest). Finally got home. With nothing to do we walked to the Alibi and drank.


editordude September 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm

If you have any photos taken during the black-out, send them to us. We just posted one already ….


Avery September 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm

We hadn’t bothered to fuel the “commute car” and sure enough, my partner called from work saying he’d try to make it home, but it’d be close. He ran out of fuel in the left hand lane of I-8 about 1/2 mile away from Sea World Drive (why didn’t he pull off to the shoulder? He’s an IT guy. ’nuff said). I jumped in the Jeep, made my way down to Hotel Circle for the u-turn back onto westbound 8 and inched along with the rest of the group. It was pretty easy to spot the disabled car, as all traffic was forced to swing out into onto the shoulder to pass him. I nudged up behind him and pushed him all the way home. We may need to polish up the bumper a bit, but no permanent harm. I thoroughly enjoyed the sort of camaraderie and goodwill that seemed to be in good supply on the clogged freeway for once. No angry gestures, no horn honking, and plenty of laughing comments thrown through open windows. Nice.

We finished the evening drinking far too much wine with our neighbors, sharing stories and enjoying the starlight.


Jim September 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm

One of my neighbors told me about seeing you guys on the 8 last night. Glad you made it home.


Outlaw September 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Had a BBQ at my mom and dads house. (Oceanside)

Pan of beens, and grilled chicken. Originally was going to be used as we watched the game, but Oh well. It was fun though.


Patty Jones September 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I was sitting outside when the power went off. I heard the little air conditioner in our roommate’s window stop, then realized the whole neighborhood had gotten eerily quiet, and pretty much knew it was more than a blown fuse (in our house, anyway). My daughter was in the middle of a medical procedure when the lights went dim at the hospital, which freaked her out a for a minute before they reassured her that critical equipment would be okay.

She left the hospital and encountered a huge traffic jam as all the stores closed up at the mall, she snarked to me that a power outage isn’t a sign of Armageddon, but people were acting like Walmart closing certainly was. It took her over half an hour to travel the three miles home through La Mesa, where all the trolley gates had closed and people were playing chicken trying to get around them.

I don’t know how many people it affected but after about an hour we had no cell phone service (T-mobile), and the only phone on the property that doesn’t require electricity is in the garage. After it became apparent that the power was going to out a long time I tried to call my mother, but wasn’t able to connect to the cell network and her land line phone is cordless.

Otherwise we had fun. We barbequed, sat in the moonlight with the family, and later I finished a good book by candlelight. I was happy to see the flashing numbers on my digital clock during the night, though!


annagrace September 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Not only was I steamed- I was incredibly sweaty/steamed when the fan died. Then the laptop gave it up. The refrigerator had gone quiet. The phone was dead. It was eerie. And it was hot in City Heights.
I called my husband with the cell phone while the SIO library at UCSD was being vacated. The electricity was out there too and he didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t give much thought to his commute from campus until I found our solar powered radio and started listening to the coverage at KOGO. When I tried to contact Rich again my cell phone didn’t work. I just hunkered down on the front porch and kept listening to the radio. And waiting for him to come home.
I was so desperately relieved when Rich walked up the sidewalk after a long, long commute. He opened a bottle of wine and I made mimosas and we listened to the details and impacts of the outage. I heard fire trucks and police sirens from time to time and decided to hose down the front yard and side of the house. I was concerned to hear there were delays getting through to 911 and was worried about fires.
My neighbors walked by and we exchanged information about the “apagón.” My Spanish got a vigorous work out. We tried to flutter our blouses, catch a breeze on our sweating bodies, bien empapados.
Our generally noisy street was quiet as the sun set. I lit candles on the front porch and we sat out there drinking and listening to the radio and gazing at the moon and a handful of stars. The inside of the house had become a black hole, filled with intense heat, without a glimmer of light. The cats were confused and lay sprawled on the kitchen linoleum next to the door.
At some point the candles flickered out, the alcohol kicked in, and we felt assured that although something had gone seriously amiss, it was not a case of the unspeakable or unimaginable. Which is to say we kissed each other goodnight and managed to fall asleep in the sauna of our bed.


Citizen Cane September 9, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Of course I immediately suspected Al Queda. I locked up my fridge with duct tape, and rigged some booby traps. They weren’t gonna get my hummus…not without a fight.

Actually I biked down to the beach for a swim when I heard how big the outage was. I had to take a cold shower when I got home, but it was still warmer than the ocean. We were well prepared with LED flashlights and lanterns. Also nice to have a gravity flow water filter by Berkey:

I’ve heard rumors about profiteering. Anybody here witness price gouging first hand?


dave rice September 10, 2011 at 9:56 pm

The guys at the gas station at Sunset Cliffs and Pt. Loma Ave. were just closing up as I got in – they were rounding up the prices on stuff and the guy made a point of telling me “I’m not gonna give you your change.” But it was only four cents anyway, and I’ve found that he’s always kind of a jerk so I generally try not to patronize the place anyway – he’s always been overpriced and rude, but I didn’t feel like riding my bike across town to the Quik Stop. It kind of sucked seeing a bus driver try to walk in thirty seconds before he decided he was tired of serving the line of people willing to overpay for their purchase in cash get denied service, though.


Dana September 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm

ive only had good dealings with these guys! your the only person i know who has ever said anything like that. wow dude…maybe its you.


Frank Gormlie September 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Dave Rice was responding to a query of the former commenter who was asking whether anyone had witnessed any price gorging first hand, and dave reported that he had – even though it was slight. It’s kind of rude to then come in and smack dave down.


Wireless Mike September 10, 2011 at 12:33 am

I was at my computer doing some work that had to go out that day (needless to say, that didn’t happen). I thought, here we go again. Only a few weeks ago we lost power when a tree branch fell on wires on Soto St. I keep an old rotary-dial phone handy for just such occasions, but it was about 45 minutes before I could get a line. I just listened to KOGO and sat tight.

After it got dark, I walked down to Newport Ave. There were a lot of people out wandering the streets, some with flashlights. Some people had small fires going in their front yards. The only light was from car headlights, fires, flashlights and candles. It was reminiscent of Halloween. There was an eerie feeling to it all.

On Newport, there was a group of people gathered in front of The Harp. From what I could see, they were pretty calm. A police car was cruising up and down the block with its emergency lights on, shining its spotlight on pedestrians. At one point, it stopped in front of the Hostel and an officer told people to get off the roof. I walked back home, lit a candle and listened to the radio. My power came on at 1:15 AM.

I don’t usually listen to KOGO because of the right-wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Roger Hedgecock. But I have to applaud KOGO and its staff for their excellent coverage of the power outage. They were informative and professional, and that is what the city needed. A job well done.


annagrace September 10, 2011 at 8:41 am

A neighbor told me that police were trying to clear University Avenue in City Heights of pedestrians by 8pm. Lots of pedestrians here and they were certainly at risk trying to cross University and El Cajon while the traffic lights weren’t working. I also suspect that it was a preemptive action against the possibility of robberies and looting. Sigh…


unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG September 10, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Early to bed for me.


Dana September 10, 2011 at 7:55 pm

On Sunset and Orchard we sat in the parking lot, sodas, beers, radios, neighbors letting those with no cell call their loved ones. One of the girls had a great voice and an acoustic guitar. So happy when my husband made it home! Glad we have a pool here.


dave rice September 10, 2011 at 10:01 pm

My stove is gas, so we were able to cook some spaghetti and eat in the backyard around dusk. Then I pulled out the lanterns I’d bought when we first moved in and the landlord neglected to tell us there was no power, causing us to wait five days until SDG&E could get around to sending someone out to turn it back on. We played a few board games and talked, and I put my daughter down a little early, without any complaining about not being able to watch TV. A brief cocktail party in the parking lot at my apartment complex ensued as all the neighbors gathered to charge their cell phones by car battery. It was actually kind of nice.


unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG September 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm

It’s Tuesday already! I just woke up. Is Bush still in office?


editordude September 22, 2011 at 10:46 am

We are reposting this comment from M.T. DiGiacomo-Lopez that came to another article but should be here:

I know it has been a few weeks since the loss of power in San Diego but I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in Chris’s Deli on Sunset Cliffis & W. Point Loma Blvd. They were selling ice for $4.00 per bag from the regular price. We refused to buy it at that price considering that is IPrice Gouging”. They also raised the price on many other things and we were out of there. I will never enter that store again and some friends and neighbors will not also. In a time of need there is no reason to be so greedy and take advantage of others. I called Chri’s deli the next morning and being lucky I actually talked to the owner. I asked him if he was aware of the price of ice anf other things and he told me yes he was very aware and did not feel bad about it at all. Again i was so dissapointed. Thanks for taking time to read my e-mail…
M.T. DiGiacomo-Lopez


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