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South Bay residents, businesses cope with power outage

September 15, 2013|By Samantha Schaefer
  • Gary Hatfield of Southern California Edison works on a damaged power line on 190th Street in Torrance. Tens of thousands of customers were affected by a power outage.
Gary Hatfield of Southern California Edison works on a damaged power line… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

The workday was just getting started at the Roadhouse Bar & Grill in Torrance when the lights flickered and went black just after 7 a.m. Sunday.

Bartender Amelia Villa was chatting with cook Oscar Magana by the counter when they heard a loud crackling.

"We went outside and watched the power line snap all the way down 190th" Street, Villa said, noting that the hanging utility wires caught fire.

Thick smoke filled the block, then something that sounded like a transformer blew, she said.

"You couldn't even see down the street," said Villa, 29. "It was like being in a fire."

The initial outage affected more than 115,000 residents in Torrance, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, south Redondo Beach, northwest San Pedro and Lomita. Torrance reported the biggest outage with more than 83,000 customers affected.

Magana went into the street and started directing traffic away from the area while Villa called 911.

They shut down the restaurant, and Villa posted what happened on Facebook. Regulars bombarded her with text messages to ask what happened.

Villa and her mother, who helps serve tables on Sundays, cleaned up breakfast settings in the pitch-black restaurant with flashlights wedged between their necks and shoulders.

Bill Robb, 65, who opened the bar and grill with his wife about six years ago, said the outage would not have a lasting impact on business.

"Some customers leave, new ones come in," he said of the restaurant, which is usually full of regulars on Sundays.

Hours later, with the power back on, Robb and his crew prepped to open for the day. Villa and Magana took down the "closed" sign from the door, and shot a quick photo of themselves holding an "open" one for Facebook.

"It might slow things down, but the regulars will come in like they always do," Villa said, joking that she was ready to give the customers texting her a hard time — she had beaten them all there.

"It's like family here," she said. "We give each other a hard time just like at the dinner table."

Marvin Jackmon, a public affairs manager for Southern California Edison, said transmission lines at 190th Street and Crenshaw Boulevard had fallen on top of distribution lines. It was not clear what caused the lines to fall.

By 1 p.m., more than 30,000 Edison customers, mostly in the Torrance and Lomita areas, were back online, Jackmon said.

Multiple crews are working on repairs and it was unclear how long it would take to restore power throughout the region.

"I imagine we'll be working through the night," Jackmon said.

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samantha.schaefer@latimes.com

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