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Thursday
Sep082011

1.4 Million Without Power in Southern California Blackout

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- A massive power outage that swept across Arizona, Southern California and Mexico has left millions of people in the dark and brought major West Coast cities to a standstill.

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. president and CEO Michael Niggl said at a press conference Thursday that the outage originated in Arizona and the 1.4 million affected customers could be without power through the night and into Friday.

The outage could have been caused by the past few days of intense heat, he suggested. The temperature in the Palm Springs, Calif., area reached 111 on Thursday.

There was "no indication that this event was caused by terrorism," Niggl said, adding that the agency was working with the California Independent System Operator to bring them back online.

The outage, which started at 4 p.m. PST, appeared to stretch east from San Diego to Yuma, Ariz., as far north as San Clemente, Calif., and as far south as the Baja penisula in Mexico.

The specific cause of the outage is still unknown. But authorities said it had to do with the power line that connects Arizona and California. Both major connections that bring power to the region have been disconnected -- for reasons unknown.

Viewers of ABC affiliate KESQ in Palm Springs, Calif., have called in to say they heard a massive explosion at a substation in Coachella. Those reports could not be immediately confirmed.

The loss of power led to a shutdown of two reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power plant. Officials from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency said it appeared to have shut down automatically at 3:38 p.m. because of the change in the power grid -- as it is designed to do, kind of like a circuit breaker. Officials are working now to reconnect the reactor so that it can help restore power to some of the many people affected.

All flights out of San Diego International Airport have been suspended, and the airport is currently running on generators.

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. also sent out a barrage of alerts on its Twitter feed, warning customers without power to "drive safely" on roads where street lights are out and "if you have a personal family emergency plan, please activate it now."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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