The Great West Blackout of 2011 – 5 Million Effected – Staying Safe

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The Great West Blackout of 2011 – 5 Million Effected – Staying Safe



“Power is beginning to return to pockets of San Diego County after electricity was cut to millions due to human error at a power line switching station in Arizona,” according to a KPBS report.

By early this morning, 09/09/2011, energy had been restored to more than some 930,000 users, according to combined tallies provided by officials in Arizona, California and Mexico.

Power officials urged people to turn off their air conditioners and wait a bit once the electricity comes back on to avoid a surge that creates another power outage.

Two reactors at a nuclear-power plant along the coast went off line after losing electricity, but officials said there was no danger to the public.

However, as stated by The San Diego Union-Tribune:

“An unprecedented power outage led to controlled chaos Thursday throughout San Diego County and surrounding areas as up to 5 million people coped with the sudden loss of electricity, and officials said power would be restored in waves through Saturday.”

On Thursday, 09/08/2011, a 500-kilovolt electric transmission line near Yuma, Arizona, tripped off, probably because of a worker’s activity, Arizona Public Service, one of the line’s owners, said in an e- mailed statement yesterday. The company said it is investigating why safeguards failed to isolate the problem.

The statement on the APS website last updated 09/08/2011 reads:

Cause of Widespread Outage Under Investigation
APS Works to Restore Service to Customers in Yuma Area

September 8, 2011

PHOENIX – At approximately 3:30 pm today, the North Gila – Hassayampa 500 kV transmission line near Yuma, Ariz., tripped off line resulting in a major power outage across southwest Arizona and into Southern California. Among APS customers, approximately 56,000 lost service throughout Yuma, Somerton, San Luis and Gadsden. APS is in the process of restoring service to customers in these communities.

The outage appears to be related to a procedure an APS employee was carrying out in the North Gila substation, which is located northeast of Yuma. Operating and protection protocols typically would have isolated the resulting outage to the Yuma area. The reason that did not occur in this case will be the focal point of the investigation into the event, which already is under way.

“We are working hard to restore our customers as quickly and safely as possible,” said APS President and Chief Operating Officer Don Robinson. “We take great pride in our hard-earned reputation for safe and reliable service, and we will work hard to identify the cause.”

APS is Arizona’s largest and longest serving electric utility and serves more than 1.1 million customers in 11 of the state’s 15 counties. With headquarters in Phoenix, APS is the principal subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp. (NYSE: PNW)


Travel Delays

San Diego International Airport, which handles about 300 flights daily, was operating on backup generator power and halted all outgoing flights, Rebecca Bloomfield, a spokeswoman, said yesterday.

Additionally, some airlines have canceled Friday morning flights. “Each airline is making its own decisions,” said Cheryl Brown, deputy director of marketing at the airport. “People will need to call their airlines, not the airport.”

The California National Guard was placed on alert, and the state’s Emergency Management Agency is on standby, said Jordan Scott, an agency spokesman.

Staying Safe during a Power Outage

The big three things to focus on, according to the Red Cross, are your food, any electrical equipment, generators and being aware of carbon monoxide.

If you are still om the critical 48 hours window from the time power has gone out there are still a few things you can do to preserve your food. Take a cooler and transfer any food you might want from the freezer or fridge to a cooler with ice or dry ice.

Your refrigerator will only keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened and a full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours, but only if the door remains closed. If you don’t have dry ice to keep these items from going bad, consumption may leave you susceptible to illness from spoiled food.

Here are some tips from the FDA, USDA, CDC and The Red Cross on what to do:

Manage your electric equipment


  • Shut off, unplug unnecessary electrical equipment.
  • Shut off and disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes may damage the equipment.
  • Leave at least one light in the on position so you’ll know when the power comes back on.


When it comes to alternative power sources, beware of carbon monoxide

“The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire,” the Red Cross warns. A few tips on how to make sure you avoid coming into contact with it:

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal­-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate units away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • If you have a carbon monoxide alarm  and it sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.


Maintain safe drinking water

The CDC says that when power is out some water purification systems may not fully function. Therefore, the best option for drinking, cooking and cleaning yourself includes bottled, boiled and treated water. Here are the CDC’s rules when it comes to water in a power outage:

  • Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. If possible, use baby formula that does not require water.
  • Make sure bottled water comes from a safe source. If you are unsure you can always boil the bottled water. That is the best way to kill any possible harmful bacteria or parasites. Bring the water to a rolling boil for one minute and let stand before using.
  • Eat non-perishable foods and staples after using food from the refrigerator and freezer (if you prepared it with dry ice or put it in a cooler after the 48 hours).  If food in the freezer by chance is still colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it. If available put these items in a cooler with dry ice. (For a full list of what can be refrozen, read this USDA guide)
  • Keep all of your remaining “good” food in a dry cool area.
  • Throw away any food that was in your refrigerator or freezer and that has not been cooled using another device. If food has an unusual odor, color or texture, chuck it. The Red Cross warns “when in doubt, throw it out!”
  • Don’t bother going through a taste test at this point. Even if foods may look and smell fine, if they have been stored at room temperature (because the power is no longer keeping your refrigerator or freezer cool) it can have bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can cook these bacteria off. For some foods, and some bacteria, the toxins cannot be destroyed by cooking.
  • If you’re unsure whether the food you have has been exposed to temperatures over the 40° F safety threshold try taking it’s temperature with a food thermometer. Any food that feels warm to the touch should also be thrown out.

The USDA also provides specific guidelines on what to do with specific foods. Here’s the list of what food you should throw out if it has been stored in temperatures above 40 °F for more than 2 hours in a refrigerator (Check the refrigerator temperature or use a thermometer to determine the temperature) :


Throw out: Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes; thawing meat or poultry; meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg salad; gravy, stuffing, broth;  lunch meat, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef; pizza – with any topping ; canned hams labeled “Keep Refrigerated” or opened canned meats and fish.


Throw out: Soft cheeses like blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco; shredded cheese or low-fat cheese.

Save: Hard cheeses like cheddar, colby, Swiss, parmesan, provolone or Romano; processed cheese; grated parmesan or romano cheese


Throw out: Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk; open baby formula and all types of eggs, custards and puddings.


Throw out: Fresh fruit or cut fruit

Save: Fruit juices and canned fruits even if they are opened; coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits or dates.


Throw out: Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish or fish sauces (like oyster sauce); opened creamy-based dressings or opened spaghetti sauce.

Save: Peanut butter, jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles, Worcestershire, soy, barbecue or Hoisin sauces and opened vinegar-based dressings.


Throw out: Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough; cooked pasta, rice, potatoes; pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette; fresh pasta, cheesecake,

Save: Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas, waffles, pancakes or bagels.


Throw out: Cream-filled pastries; custard,cheese filled, or chiffon pies
Save: Fruit pies


Throw out: Cooked vegetables; pre-cut, pre-washed or packaged greens;  tofu; opened vegetable juice, baked potatoes, commercial garlic in oil and potato salad.

Save: Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices; raw vegetables



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