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Blackout had some in Southland fuming, others partying

While tempers flared on the roadways, some saw the power outage as a chance to bond with neighbors or friends.

September 08, 2011|By Christopher D. Goffard, Nicole Santa Cruz and Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times
  • In Pacific Beach, Paul Warren, center, and Jacob Arde, left, help a cyclist see the numbers on his combination lock.
In Pacific Beach, Paul Warren, center, and Jacob Arde, left, help a cyclist… (Michael Robinson Chavez,…)

Theresa Duginski's 15-minute commute turned into an hour-long ordeal as Thursday's massive blackout shut down traffic lights and caused miles-long backups at intersections and freeway offramps.

"It was like people suddenly forgot how to use a four-way stop at a stoplight," said Duginski, a 21-year-old legal assistant who was sent home early when her office near downtown San Diego went dark. "It was pretty hectic."

Duginski was just one of the many thousands of drivers whose evening commute was thrown into chaos across San Diego County and southern Orange County.

PHOTOS: Blackout leaves millions without power

After spending two hours in traffic trying to get home to Point Loma from her job at a wireless phone kiosk in Poway, Tanya Daley had had about enough.

"It's 19 miles and it should take me 26 minutes," she fumed. "I've got it down to a T. This is ridiculous." But, she added: "It will be a blessing" if the outage continued into Friday: "I won't have to go to work."

Inside Terminal 2 at San Diego International Airport, volunteer "ambassador" Diane Hollister was scrambling to help find hotel rooms for about 100 travelers stuck when the airport canceled all outbound flights Thursday afternoon. Only a few lights remained on in the terminal, Hollister said.

At San Diego State, resident assistants knocked on doors in the blacked-out Chapultepec dorm to order students to leave the building and go home or stay with friends. They said students who remained in the dorm would have to surrender their campus ID cards so that administrators could keep tabs on those staying.

The campus canceled rush activities and afternoon classes. Just one dining hall remained open for dinner Thursday evening. But a pub at UC San Diego drew a boisterous crowd.

"The beer's still working," said Josh Bloomekatz, a 30-year-old post-doctoral researcher in embryonic heart development. "Somehow they hooked to some electricity, so there is music going on. Some guy just swallowed a sword."

Lines of 20 people or more formed at a farmers market in downtown Oceanside for some of the only warm food in the city. While almost every business was closed on the block, vendors selling tostadas, lemonade, hummus and gyros were doing a brisk trade.

"Because all the restaurants are closed, everybody is coming to me," said a happy Arden Miller, who owns a coffee truck.

The Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego was unusually quiet. Most businesses were shuttered. Daniel Merienne, 23, whose family runs the Juice Joint Cafe on 6th Avenue, said he expected to throw away $1,200 worth of merchandise, including sandwich meats and yogurt. "It's ruining my business," he said.

At the Bare Back Grill at 8 p.m., the main restaurant room was closed but dozens of people were clustered on the patio and enjoying themselves by torchlight.

"We're trying to help the regulars out because they're stuck at their house without anything to do," said manager Kyle Jaworski, 27. He said he wouldn't be surprised if there was a spike in births nine months from now.

"They're just making the most of it," Jaworski said. "We'll have a bunch of blackout babies."

At San Diego's Pacific Beach Shore Club, employees kept pouring drinks. Word spread, and the place began to fill with blackout revelers.

"I think people are treating it as a mini-vacation," waitress Kim Stone said. "The refrigerators are obviously out. But we've got plenty of ice stocked. I think we'll just keep letting the beer flow until they're not cold anymore."

Others decided to make the most of a night at home without their televisions and computers. When Duginski got back to her apartment, she and some friends headed to the building's courtyard. Someone fired up the barbecue to grill chicken and steak.

"This is kind of bringing to focus the reality that you don't need all of that technology to interact," Duginski said, laughing. "Tonight we'll be meeting some new neighbors."

PHOTOS: Blackout leaves millions without power

Los Angeles Times staff writers Mike Anton, Martha Groves, Joel Rubin, Louis Sahagun and Kurt Streeter contributed to this report.

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