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Power Briefly Out in O.C.

A Stanton substation fails. Elevator rescues are made but no injuries are reported.

August 05, 2004|Joel Rubin and David Reyes | Times Staff Writers

A power outage swept through northern Orange County on Wednesday afternoon, leaving hundreds of thousands of people briefly without electricity.

The power failure occurred shortly after 12:45 p.m. when equipment malfunctioned at a large electrical substation in Stanton, Southern California Edison officials said.

As the outage cascaded through parts of Buena Park, Fullerton, Stanton, Garden Grove, Cypress and La Palma, traffic lights went dark, elevators stopped, and hospital generators kicked in.

In all, more than 171,000 homes and businesses served by Edison were affected, said Gil Alexander, a spokesman for the company.

Cerritos, in Los Angeles County, also was affected.

Automated emergency systems restored power to most customers by 1 p.m. All customers were back on line within an hour of the incident, Alexander said.

Although no injuries were reported, the incident caused headaches for police and fire departments. Sgt. Steve Matson said Fullerton police scrambled to control traffic at busy intersections and respond to a flood of home alarms that were triggered when power returned.

"It just got crazy," Matson said. "Traffic signals were going out and alarms were going off. We were busy, but we handled it."

Firefighters rescued several people trapped in elevators for about 20 minutes in three locations in Fullerton, fire authorities reported.

Among businesses affected was Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, which shut down all rides for nearly an hour. Some 100 to 150 visitors on at least five thrill rides had to be helped off the rides, Knott's spokeswoman Susan Tierney said.

Jose Aguayo, 15, was nearing the top of the Supreme Scream free-fall ride with his cousin Michael Flores, 12, and about 15 other people when the power went out. Jose grew nervous as the ride remained stuck about 100 feet high.

"I was scared because I didn't even know what was happening," he said. "I thought, 'This should be going down by now.' "

After about 15 minutes, Flores said, power was restored and the ride's carriage slowly descended.

Maria Grijalva and her two daughters were visiting the park while on vacation from Chihuahua, Mexico. Having taken only two rides before the power outage, Grijalva demanded a refund from the park.

"We told them we had come a long way," she said. "We wanted our money back."

St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton was forced to operate on its three generators for 45 minutes before normal power was restored, spokeswoman Dru Ann Copping said. No surgeries or other treatments were disrupted, she said.

"We're a hospital, so our contingency plans have contingency plans, right down to the pencil sharpener," Copping said. "We're always ready for emergency situations. These are things we practice for."

Alexander, the Edison spokesman, said the Stanton substation is one of the county's largest; it distributes electricity to smaller substations before it is routed to homes and businesses. "It was a significant outage," he said. "Unusually large."

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Times staff writers David Haldane, Stanley Allison and Mai Tran contributed to this report.

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