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Blackout May Have Caused Millions in Losses

The blackout that cut off power to four million Californian and Mexican customers on Thursday has had wide-ranging effects on businesses, with up to $118 million in losses, according to news reports.

A multi-agency investigation is being launched to determine the cause of the blackout, which affected  San Diego County, California’s Inland Empire and parts of Mexico, the L.A. Times reported.

All 1.4 million customers of San Diego Gas & Electric lost power in the incident, which trapped people in elevators and on rides at Sea World and Legoland. Hospital emergency rooms had to switch to backup generators, and departures from San Diego’s Lindbergh Field were cancelled for several hours, the Times said.

The grid collapse may have caused $97 million to $118 million in losses, according to a “back of the envelope” analysis by W. Erik Bruvold, president of National University System Institute for Policy Research, quoted in the North County Times.

“Deriving an estimate is difficult because those areas you’d think would have high economic losses may have had backup generators. So it’s really hit and miss to find which ones didn’t have generators kick on in time,” Bruvold said.

The North County Times said the biggest losses were due to overtime pay, loss of productivity, and loss of perishable food and medicine.

Ochs Oil Co., which provides diesel fuel to power generators, made deliveries during the blackout to the Marriott hotel in downtown San Diego, to a local biotech company to keep its freezers running, and to water agencies to keep pumping stations running.

Many grocery stores were closed after the blackout.

The outage was triggered by an employee of utility APS, working on a high-voltage power line between Arizona and San Diego, a utility spokesman told the L.A. Times.

“Operating and protection protocols typically would have isolated the resulting outage to the Yuma area,” the spokesman said. “The reason that did not occur in this case will be the focal point of the investigation into the event, which already is underway.”

Picture credit: Kevin Baird

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