Mayor Robert Garcia provides an update on the power outage. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.
Southern California Edison and City of Long Beach officials announced a new strategy at a press conference on Friday and the opening of a shelter at Cesar Chavez Park, as crews continue to work 24-hour shifts to bring power back to downtown.
Resuming the press conference series at Third and Chestnut, the site of the failed cable incident that began downtown’s 48 hours without power, officials described a plan that involved partitioning the city into three sections: East (east of Long Beach Boulevard), Northwest (north of Fourth Street), and Southwest (south of Fourth street to Long beach Boulevard).
By sectioning off portions of the city, officials said they hoped to return power to the city section-by-section. According to Paul Grigaux, vice president of Transmission, Substations and Operations, a power outage of this magnitude has not occurred in Long Beach since the 1950s.
At the time of the 3:00PM press conference, officials said roughly 2,000 people were impacted by the power outage, down from 3,852 at 12:02PM Friday.
“I want to thank the community for their understanding and patience,” said Grigaux. “I understand this is very destructive to people’s lives.”
“On behalf of the whole city, I want to say to the community, thank you for helping each other out,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “The community has been amazing.”
Meanwhile, the opening of a shelter at Cesar Chavez Park (401 Golden Avenue) was announced, with plans to remain open until all residents regain power. The shelter began providing food, water, and charging stations at 4:00PM. It will provide beds at 7:00PM. Showers will be provided as well.
Officials said at the time of the press conference, all residents in the East section of the city had power. By the end of the night, officials hoped to have the Northwest section up and running with power as well.
“If we’re successful in doing that [energizing the Northwest section] that could lead to an additional 1,500 customers being restored,” Grigaux said.
The Southwest side—which is where the initial cable failure occurred, and where significant damage was sustained to the vault system—requires extensive repairs, Grigaux said. “So our customers there, even on the best case scenario, will continue to see outages until tomorrow.”
“There is still a possibility, even though we restored the Eastside, that we may identify some additional issues in the field that would require us to de-energize our customers to make sure that the system itslef remains safe and sustainable,” added Grigaux.
Grigaux said they were not able to identify a root cause of the outage yet, and would focus on repairing the system before looking for such a cause.
He did believe, however, that the cable failure was an isolated incident. He stated that Edison has replaced 90 percent of the area’s network connectors—which protects the system—in the past five years.
Although the current underground electrical equipment in Long Beach is “many, many decades old,” SoCal Edison replaces sections of the equipment every few years.
According to Grigaux, a similar electrical malfunction occurred in New York City when Hurricane Sandy hit the coast in 2012. New York City has a similar network system.
Officials said they will also be placing over 250 96-gallon receptacles throughout downtown Long Beach to collect spoiled food. Public Works personnel will also continue trash collection on Saturday and Sunday, said Public Works Director Ara Maloyan.
According to Maloyan, 36 generators are now lighting the area’s traffic signals.
Officials also stated that five generators were set up or being set up on Friday to give power to strategic locations—prioritizing senior citizen buildings—with 20 more expected to be set up soon.
Moloyan said the city had increased its state of emergency from a Level Two to a Level Three, the highest level.
In addition to a shelter at the park, community members can also go to Plymouth West Senior Apartments at 240 Chestnut Avenue, and Pacific Park Tower Apartments at 714 Pacific Avenue for water, food, flashlights and other small necessities.
In a partnership with Molina Healthcare, city personnel will also distribute disposable ice packs at these locations for residents who need medication cooled, said Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD) spokesman Brian Fisk.
According to Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) spokesman Megan Zabel, as darkness approaches, officials will close the Sixth Street and Broadway offramps on the Long Beach (710) Freeway as a safety measure. The Anaheim Street and Shoreline Drive exits will be open.
This story was updated at 6:55PM on Friday, July 17.