Chances are you know exactly what you were doing at 3:37 p.m. one year ago today.
“I was sitting in traffic in Point Loma,” said Julius Ulit of San Carlos. “I was sitting there for at least two hours, did not move an inch.”
September 8, 2012, marks the first anniversary of the power blackout in San Diego. At least 1.4 million SDG&E customers were in the dark after a worker at a substation in Yuma, Ariz., accidentally short-circuited the region. The blackout lasted for 12 hours or longer in some areas.
In the immediate aftermath, there was traffic gridlock. Stop lights were out. Travelers at Lindbergh Field were stranded and many were forced to sleep on the floor. People rushed to buy food and drinks at convenience stores. There was a blitz on local Home Depot stores for generators, batteries and flashlights. Drivers parked and waited at gas stations with their fuel tanks on empty.
“The lesson I learned was to always have water or keep plenty of batteries around just in case something like this happens again,” said Anthony Steele of Chula Vista.
Others say they remember the blackout well, but haven’t changed their habits.
“We were not prepared at all,” said Ted Barduson of Carmel Valley. “We haven’t changed anything else.”
There has been a major change with the City of San Diego and its water pump stations.
Three and a half million gallons of raw sewage spilled into the ocean and San Diego Bay after two pumps lost power. Now, seven diesel generators have been installed at five different pump stations. The total cost of the generators is $17 million.
“If an event occurred today, our staff would need to manually hook up these generators,” said Ann Sasaka, assistant Public Utilities Director with the city of San Diego. “However, we have a follow up project going on where we’ll be permanently installing these generators so they have an automatic transfer switch.”
A spokesperson for SDG&E was reluctant to talk about the one year anniversary of the blackout because the utility wasn’t the cause of it. The utility referred a reporter to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), which this week, issued a press release identifying 27 findings and recommendations as a result of the power blackout.