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Power Outage Hits Six Western States as Temperatures Soar

August 11, 1996

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A massive power outage struck at least six Western states Saturday, with reports of lost electricity extending from San Diego to Oregon and as far east as Texas. In many areas temperatures topped 100.

The outage began shortly before 4 p.m., appearing to be intermittent, affecting some areas, with others getting power back quickly.

Reports of downed power stretched from Portland, Ore., and San Francisco, south to Los Angeles, Riverside, Calif., and San Diego, and Las Vegas, Albuquerque, N.M., and El Paso, Texas, to the east.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which had about half its 4.5 million customers in Northern California affected by the outage, said there was a ``frequency disruption″ in the Pacific Interconnect, a 500,000 volt electric grid that runs from Canada to the Mexican border. The disruption knocked out three of the utility’s plants.

`When this occurred, they had unusually high demand for a weekend day because of the heat wave,″ said PG&E spokesman Leonard Anderson.

Southern California Edison spokesman Gary Tarplee said half of its customers were affected, and ``I suspect heat has been a factor...Again I don’t know the origin. It appears to have happened somewhere north of us.″

Across California, traffic signals and stoplights went black, snarling traffic as delegates arrived for the Republican National Convention in San Diego. While there were widespread blackouts in the city, the convention center itself was unaffected.

In Los Angeles, police called a police tactical alert in response to the blackout, meaning all officers remain on shift. Neighborhoods in outlying suburbs were without power and hospitals went onto emergency generator power.

``We’re responding in what amounts to our earthquake mode,″ said Capt. Dan Young of the Orange County Fire Department. ``We certainly have had an increase in traffic collisions, since you’ve got thousands of signals with no control on them.″

Outages were reported across the midsection of California. Today was the hottest day of the year in that region _ hitting 100 degrees in Bakersfield.

``We’re just standing here hoping to God that the power comes back on,″ said Anna Rubio, a Payless Drug Store worker in Sacramento. ``We had all the customers leave, and the employees broke out flashlights.″

San Francisco police were dispatched to calls around the city of people stuck in elevators.

In Las Vegas, the gambling went on with most major casinos on emergency generators.

The weather is a major factor in this power outage even if it was not weather-caused,″ said San Francisco Bay area meteorologist Mike Pechner said. ``The whole I-5 corridor is sizzling.″

Most of El Paso, Texas, in the southwest corner of the state also lost power. Service was restored almost immediately in southern and western El Paso, but central and eastern parts of the city were still without into the evening.

In Canada, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation reported outages in parts of Calgary, Alberta. CBC said it also went off the air briefly in Edmonton.

The last major blackout in the West came on July 2, when an outage on an Idaho transmission line, combined with record power demands during hot weather, caused a ripple effect that cut power to 15 Western states and parts of Canada and Mexico. About 2 million people were affected.

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