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Power Outage: 'Doesn’t Anybody Around Here Talk to Anybody Else?'

Part of the power outage problem apparently stemmed from a lack of communication between power companies.

“Doesn’t anybody around here talk to anybody else?”

That quote from a movie I saw once perfectly describes the atmosphere that apparently existed in most electric utility companies around southern California, Arizona, and Mexico when the on the afternoon of September 8.

Information from the , and it points out things we pretty much already knew, and some things we didn’t have any idea about.

It appears, as we pretty much knew, that the whole thing kicked off with missteps by an Arizona Public Service worker trying to fix a problem at the Hassayampa switching station northeast of Yuma- your basic human error.

The efforts to fix that problem instead tripped a 500kv power line feeding into our area offline.

Demand for power automatically switched to other high tension lines- lines that couldn’t handle it all.

That caused the beginnings of overloads on other lines into and out of San Diego- particularly another 500kv line at the San Onofre switching facility.

That isolated San Onofre, and in order to protect itself from surge damage, San Onofre went offline.

It seems somewhat silly to say this, , but it could have been a lot worse. We could have been without power for days, maybe even weeks, if the system had NOT shut itself down, as it is designed to do.

The way the system is designed, it left San Diego Gas and Electric in the position of having to sacrifice its customers for hours, to prevent the further collapse of the whole interconnected system.

That cost businesses, like restaurants, monetary damages for spoiled food and loss of business that have yet to be fully calculated.

OK, we get that.

It is what it is- for now.

The Cali ISO- the independent systems operator in Sacramento, says it appears a major part of the problem was that at least five different power-providing entities had no idea what, if anything, their partners in power supply were doing, or not doing, to try to put the brakes on the problem before it snowballed into what it did.

This lack of communication, says Cal ISO, is not a new phenomenon- it’s been going on for years.

Yes, the Western Power Grid, and all its component parts, are designed to be able to protect itself in case of a massive emergency , like a major earthquake or huge fires destroying major power lines.

We’ve had experience with things like that, haven’t we?

But we’re all left with the question- why WEREN’T the power providers talking? Why DON’T the power providers have plans to look inside each others’ capabilities and problems when something like this starts out?

Are you telling me no one was capable of picking up a telephone?

Does no one have land lines that would continue to work, even if the power has gone out to all those thousands and thousands of cell phone towers?

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, but I don’t think so.

Communication is all in situations like this.

I watched through the rolling blackouts of a few years ago, standing there in the SDG&E control center, watching people trying to communicate.

Didn’t work so good then- didn’t work so good this time, either.

Doesn’t anybody around here talk to anybody else?

Michael Forrest September 27, 2011 at 07:35 PM
You're digging deep for a news article Doug... Just because you're not aware of communication doesn't mean it doesn't exists... Can you please give us [the reader] a break?
Doug Curlee September 27, 2011 at 08:55 PM
nichael.. had you bothered to read the story, you would have discovered that it was not ME saying there was bad communication.. it was the california public utilities commission.. and they're kinda in the business of knowing things like that.. doug

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