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Power Outage: Here We Go Again

Another blackout hits some 1,000 downtown customers, including government offices.

October 12, 2005|Eric Malnic and Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writers

The third downtown electrical outage in less than a month cut power Tuesday morning to about 1,000 customers, including City Hall, the Parker Center police headquarters and the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration.

There were no reports of emergencies arising from the blackout.

Backup generators restored power at many downtown government facilities almost immediately.

However, special equipment had to be brought into the City Council chambers to count votes and power the sound system.

Blacked-out signal lights snarled traffic at the Civic Center and in Chinatown throughout the day.

Power was not restored at some City Hall offices until almost 7 p.m.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for an investigation of the blackout.

"Obviously, the duration is one significant concern," said Joe Ramallo, a spokesman for the mayor.

The outage occurred on the same day that 22 of the city's Department of Water and Power managers -- all members of the Management Employee Assn. -- called in sick or took the day off to protest delays in approving a new contract.

But, Ramallo said, DWP officials didn't believe the outage and walkout were related.

"Some of the people who are impatient did not show up for work," said Jerry Pfefferman, association president. "It's to send a message to move the process along."

The group is seeking raises like those recently approved for rank-and-file workers: 17% to 34% over five years.

The DWP said Tuesday's electrical problems began with an equipment failure -- a circuit that grounded about 5:45 a.m. in an area served by a distribution center at 3rd and Hill streets.

Human error was not a factor, the DWP said.

More widespread outages began about 9 a.m., and by 10:45 a.m., about 1,000 customers were without power.

Carol Tucker, a DWP spokeswoman, said that most of the power had been restored by 4:30 p.m., with about 88 customers -- including offices in City Hall and commercial customers in several blocks to the east -- still lacking electricity.

On Sept. 12, a worker installing a new automated control system at the DWP's Toluca Lake receiving station cut a bundle of three live wires, triggering a short circuit that led to the shutdown of other transmission and generation stations to avoid damage.

The resulting blackout cut power to 2 million people in Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale for up to 1 1/2 hours, affecting nearly 898,000 homes and businesses -- more than half of the DWP's customers.

The DWP said the live wires had been cut because of an inaccurate work order.

Villaraigosa blamed the mishap on multiple errors and a lack of communication.

On Sept. 23, a mechanical failure at a downtown substation led to a five-minute power outage that affected about 40,000 customers in downtown Los Angeles, El Sereno, Boyle Heights and Lincoln Park.

DWP spokeswoman Gale Harris said human error was not involved in that incident.

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Times staff writer Steve Hymon contributed to this report.

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