Local

Long Beach vault explosion: Officials mad at Edison over power outages

Another vault explosion and subsequent power outage left an estimated 30,000 people without power on Thursday, July 30, 2015. Power was mostly restored by Friday morning, and Southern California Edison said it anticipated it would be restored for all customers by 6 p.m.
Another vault explosion and subsequent power outage left an estimated 30,000 people without power on Thursday, July 30, 2015. Power was mostly restored by Friday morning, and Southern California Edison said it anticipated it would be restored for all customers by 6 p.m.
Courtesy City of Long Beach Twitter account

Listen to story

00:50
Download this story 0MB

4:51 p.m. Long Beach officials mad at Southern California Edison over power outages

A second series of explosions in downtown underground electrical vaults this month have Long Beach city officials angry at Southern California Edison and demanding some answers.
 
After the first vault explosions July 15, Long Beach officials publicly thanked Southern California Edison for getting power restored within three days. But after a second series of explosions Thursday in the same downtown neighborhood cut power to thousands of customers, they’re just mad.
 
Mayor Robert Garcia said he and top city administrators spent some intense face time with Edison officials — but they still don’t know what is causing the explosions and outages.
 
“It is unacceptable and they are very aware that we are not happy and not confident in the level of reliability of the downtown network,” Garcia said.

Edison posted Friday afternoon that some residents may remain without power overnight, but that they would try to restore power to the remaining 260 customers without power between 6 and 10 p.m. Friday evening.
 
The city last week had asked the California Public Utilities Commission to look into the Edison vault blasts. The PUC regulates investor-owned utilities like Edison. Three state legislators have since joined that request. A PUC safety director is meeting with Long Beach officials next week.
 
Long Beach state Senator Ricardo Lara is going a step farther. He’s asking the state’s joint legislative audit committee to investigate.
 
In its July 22 letter to the PUC, Long Beach also asks to change the definition of what constitutes a major outage of the electrical system. The city lost power to City Hall, the Police Department, several high-rise senior residential buildings and thousands of homes and businesses, yet the outage did not meet the definition of a major incident.
 
That’s because the PUC reserves that tag for an outage that affects 10 percent of a utility’s customers. Southern California Edison has nearly 5 million customers.
 
“In this instance, the community experienced approximately 960,000 person-hours of disruption,” the city letter said. “This event absolutely had a major impact on the quality of life for our residents, and essentially stalled our local economy over the course of four days.”

Sharon McNary with KPCC staff

2:39 p.m. 250 to 300 still without power

Power was restored for most customers Friday morning after the second underground vault explosion in Long Beach in as many weeks.

The number of customers still without power was down to about 250 to 300, according to the Long Beach Police Department. The outage centers on the area around 9th Street and Locust Avenue.

A video posted to Instagram purported to show an explosion shooting up through a manhole shortly after the outage on Thursday:

Video

Nith DuPlantier, who owns the Crazy Creole Cafe restaurant at the corner of 9th Street and Long Beach Boulevard, was one of those still waiting for power to be restored Thursday evening.

DuPlantier said she was forced to close her restaurant early Thursday because of the power outage. She said the power went out about 5 p.m.

“And then after the power go out and we heard the boom. It’s like everything shake. And then, one of my employees go look out at 10th Street and Lucas and then saw the smoke,” DuPlantier said.

DuPlantier said the restaurant was without electricity for two hours. She had to cancel dinnertime delivery orders because they couldn’t cook and fill orders without power to the kitchen.

“Come on, we’re trying to run a business here,” she said.

Southern California Edison told her the power would be back on around 1 a.m. Friday. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m.

Edison said it would deploy two-person crews to inspect vaults in downtown Long Beach starting at 10 a.m. and anticipates power would be back for all customers by 6 p.m., according to Long Beach police.

City Hall, the Main Library and police headquarters all remained open Friday, police said.

Erika Aguilar with KPCC staff

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Senator Ricardo Lara's office. KPCC regrets the error.