SoCal Edison Vice President of Transmission, Substations and Operations Paul Grigaux speaks to media Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.
Southern California Edison customers in Downtown Long Beach should expect blackouts into Thursday night and possibly Friday morning or later, while workers troubleshoot the area’s underground network system to return electricity, officials said.
In an afternoon press conference at the epicenter of the power outage incident, SoCal Edison officials and officials from various city departments alerted the public to continued testings of the underground cables and what residents should do to keep safe.
Mayor Robert Garcia urged the community to remain calm and to help one another, especially seniors and children.
“All hands are on deck,” Garcia said in regard to the cooperation of city departments. City officials also urged residents to follow city departments on social media and other online outlets to stay up-to-date.
Community members were also asked to put spoiled food and other trash out tomorrow so public works personnel can collect the trash.
According to Public Works Director Ara Maloyan, the city will also be suspending parking enforcement until Sunday evening.
Officials said the affected area includes the Long Beach (710) Freeway to Chestnut Avenue, and from Pacific Coast Highway to Shoreline Drive.
There are 110 non-operational traffic signals and six generators providing power to the area’s main corridors, Maloyan added. The city is also in the process of getting more generators for residents.
While Edison officials hoped that only a few hundred customers would experience blackouts Thursday night, up to 11,000 customers could be without electricity for several minutes at certain times while restoration tasks are conducted.
Such large-scale blackouts are needed due to the area’s unique network configuration system, said SCE Vice President of Transmission, Substations and Operations Paul Grigaux. Instead of only fixing sections of power throughout the system, workers need to restore power to the entire system, thus impacting thousands of customers at certain times.
“With a network system, everything is interconnected and it provides a significantly higher reliable service,” he said. “Unfortunately troubleshooting exercise and restoration tasks are complicated.”
According to Grigaux, the power outage was caused by a cable failure in an underground vault at about 3:00PM Wednesday.
The cable caused an electrical fire and smoke to spill into the air from various manhole covers, even forcing one manhole cover to jump nearly 4 feet into the air.
Workers were eventually able to identify 10 points of failure in three vaults and seven cable sections, and also checked neighboring vaults to ensure that other potential failures were correctly identified before workers could re-energize the system, Grigaux said.
“It’s a very complex series of tests we need to go through and there are a lot of protocols that need to be followed so we can secure the safety of the public and first responders and crews,” Grigaux added.
While the exact location or number of customers that will continue to be affected and for how long is unknown, fire officials warned residents to exercise caution when inside or outdoors.
According to Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD) spokesman Jake Heflin, residents are asked to use flashlights at all times.
Fire officials stated that unattended candles were the cause of Thursday’s early morning apartment fire that left two critically injured. Heflin said the apartment was also affected by the power outage.
Health Department officials also recommended the public to use food thermometers to make sure food is safe to eat, or, “when in doubt, throw it out.”
Nelson Kerr, manager of the city’s Environmental Health Bureau, also stated that staff was working closely with the 175 to 200 affected businesses to make sure all food was safe to consume.
Residents can go to longbeach.gov for more information.