Electrical Worker Blamed for Black Out in SoCal, Arizona, Mexico

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- A single worker's error led to a massive power outage on Thursday that swept across Arizona, Southern California and Mexico, leaving millions of people in the dark and bringing major West Coast cities to a standstill, according to a local power company.

The North Gila-Hassayampa 500 kV transmission line near Yuma, Arizona was tripped offline when a single APS employee was carrying out a procedure in the North Gila substation, according to Arizona Power Service.

Typically, in such an instance, the outage would be isolated to the Yuma area.  The investigation is now focusing on the reason that did not occur in this case, APS said Thursday.

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. president and CEO Michael Niggli earlier said that 1.4 million affected customers could be without power through the night and into Friday.

A multi-stage restoration plan was started to get power back to everyone, according to the San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

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

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.  

Grocery stores across San Diego that have back-up generators were filled with people grabbing non-perishable food, water and ice.  Most of the gas stations are closed, as people are being advised to use as little gas and water as possible.  There were people stranded whose gas has run out, and all landline phones aren't working.

Some hospitals that usually provide urgent care were closed, while some were under emergency lock down -- frustrating and frightening many.

Non-functioning traffic lights have caused delays everywhere, making it difficult for ambulances to get to where they needed to go.  And all flights out of San Diego International Airport have been suspended.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Poll: Sense of Security Rebounds at 10th Anniversary of 9/11

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Confidence in the country’s safety from terrorism has rebounded sharply in the past year to near its highs, with most Americans expressing satisfaction with the steps the country’s taken in response to 9/11.  But there are two major exceptions: The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Overall, support for the country’s response is broad, albeit not deep.  Sixty-seven percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll are satisfied with the way the United States has responded to the attacks, and 64 percent think the country is safer now than it was before 9/11, up sharply from its low -- 48 percent -- a year ago.

Still, likely reflecting the continued sense of risk, far fewer think the country is “much” safer -- 26 percent -- or are “very” satisfied with the U.S. response -- 18 percent.

The two boldest and costliest actions taken by the United States, moreover, are controversial.  This poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that just 52 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has been effective at reducing the risk of terrorism, and fewer than half -- 46 percent -- say the war in Iraq made the U.S. safer from terrorist attacks.

Larger majorities, however, say a variety of other actions -- from enhanced airport security to increased wiretap and surveillance efforts to the killing of Osama bin Laden this spring -- have been effective at reducing the threat of future terrorism.

It is worth noting that the results of this latest poll come as a new possible terror threat against major U.S. cities has been uncovered.  According to intelligence officials, the CIA has developed information indicating that at least three individuals entered the county in August by air with the intent to launch a vehicle-borne attack against Washington, D.C. or New York around the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Officials say the alleged terror plot was initiated by new al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's successor, who had pledged to avenge bin Laden's death earlier this year in a U.S. raid.

In light of the threat, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said on Thursday that security measures would be ramped up across the city as it prepares for the anniversary of the attacks this Sunday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Northeast Flooding: Five Dead as 100,000 Evacuate

Tetra Images/Thinkstock(WILKES-BARRE, Pa.) -- Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River has crested and over 100,000 residents have been evacuated as remnants of Tropical Storm Lee have created flood zones in the already water-logged region.

A persistent area of low pressure associated with Lee's remnants will remain over the area throughout the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.  It is expected that the area will see an additional four to seven inches of rainfall in the coming days.

Of the five deaths that have been attributed to the flooding, one was a child who was caught in a storm drain by the rushing waters.  The 8-year-old Pennsylvania boy was swept underwater into a storm drain that was approximately one foot in diameter, police said.

The city of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., issued a mandatory evacuation order for 8 p.m. Thursday which was moved to 4 p.m. as the Susquehanna River rapidly swelled.

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton asked residents to "be vigilant" and warned they should prepare themselves for an extended evacuation of a minimum 72 hours.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday that an emergency exists in Pennsylvania and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions.

About 1,200 National Guardsmen have been deployed across the state, according to the Philadelphia Enquirer, with approximately one-third headed for the Wilkes-Barre area -- which is cradled in the center of the Wyoming Valley region, with the Pocono Mountains to the east, the Endless Mountains to the west and the Lehigh Valley to the south.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Events Planned in NYC, DC, Pennsylvania for 9/11 Anniversary

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- There will be numerous events around the nation Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crash of United Flight 93 in a field in western Pennsylvania.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will attend the tributes to honor the dead in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., though -- for security reasons -- the exact times of their appearances have not been made public.

In New York City, the observances at the World Trade Center site will begin with a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. -- the time the first plane hit the north tower.  There will be three other moments of silence to commemorate the time the second plane hit the south tower and the times each tower fell.

With families of the WTC victims invited to the event, the National 9/11 Memorial will also be dedicated on Sunday and opened to the public the following day.  The signature features of the 9/11 Memorial are the 2,983 names of the dead etched into bronze panels and two waterfalls cascading down into twin reflecting pools within the footprints of the towers.

At sunset, the skies will be lit up with the “Tribute in Light” -- 44 7,000-watt xenon light bulbs that will form two 48-foot squares to resemble the shape and orientation of the towers.  The “Tribute in Light” will be visible from 30 miles away.

President Obama plans to visit Shanksville on Sunday for the ceremony to honor the passengers of United Flight 93, who died while preventing the hijackers from flying the plane into either the Capitol or the White House.  The day before, Vice President Joe Biden will help dedicate a memorial for the victims at the site of the crash.

The president, who will also attend a ceremony at the Pentagon, will conclude the day’s events by attending an interfaith prayer service and delivering remarks at the Washington National Cathedral.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


9/11, Remembrance and Renewal: Changes in Airport Security

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the nation marks 10 years since the attacks of Sept. 11, it may be hard to remember, but there was a time before we had to take our belts and shoes off while going through security at airports.

Today, the screenings have become more invasive; even children have been subjected to a thorough pat down.  And Transportation Security Administration Chief John Pistole has come under fire as a result.

"That makes me think you're clueless.  That you think she's gonna attack our country," said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., criticizing Pistole after a 6-year-old girl was patted down by an airport security officer in April.

Pistole has since promised new rules to minimize pat downs for kids, but warns of the risk: "We don't see children as terrorists, but we know that parents and others use children to do bad things."

After incidents involving the underwear bomber and shoe bomber, the TSA has had to evolve to cope with new kinds of threats.  Pistole has stepped up security checks on trains, mass transit and other areas.

He says his agency screens 1.8 million people every day.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mansion Death: Victim’s Boyfriend Threatens to Sue Her Family’s Lawyer

ABC News(CORONADO, Calif.) -- A lawyer for pharmaceutical mogul Jonah Shacknai has sent an email to the lawyer representing the family of his dead girlfriend, whose body was found at his historic mansion, threatening to sue if her family’s lawyer doesn’t stop insinuating that Shacknai influenced the probe into her death.

The body of Shacknai’s girlfriend Rebecca Zahau, 32, was found on the grounds of his Spreckels Mansion in Coronado, California on July 13.  She died two days after Shacknai’s young son fell down the stairs of the mansion, suffering fatal head injuries.

A police investigation determined Zahau’s death was a suicide, but her family has hired lawyer Anne Bremner who has raised questions about the death and has pressed police to reopen the case.

ABC News has obtained an email that lawyer Dan K. Webb of the law firm Winston & Strawn LLP sent to Bremner Tuesday morning warning that “your false public statements constitute defamation, per se, and under law, entitle Mr. Shacknai to recover from you, and your law firm, substantial damages.”

“What is most concerning are recent false public statements you have made that Mr. Shacknai, because of his business success, has somehow improperly influenced the investigations… You have further made public comments that these agencies have applied a different standard in conducting their investigations because of Mr. Shacknai’s wealth,” the letter said.

Webb called Bremner’s statements “highly insensitive on a human level.  Mr. Shacknai and his family have suffered two tragic losses under the harsh and unkind glare of a national media frenzy you have now helped sustain.”

Bremner responded to the allegations Thursday night, telling ABC News, “I haven’t said anything about his wealth nor have I said anything that could be considered false or defamatory…We are simply seeking the truth and justice.”

In the email, Webb emphasized that he was not advocating that Bremner’s clients accept the results of the police investigation.  “They are, of course, entitled to their point of view regarding this matter,” he wrote.

The email concludes with, “You must cease and desist from making any further false public statements about Mr. Shacknai.”

A spokesman for Shacknai, Terry Fahn, declined to comment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Feds: Threat of Al Qaeda Terror Attack on 9/11 Anniversary

Ben Edwards/Getty Image(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. authorities are scrambling to sort through information that the CIA developed in the past 24 hours indicating that at least three individuals entered the U.S. in August by air with the intent to launch a vehicle-borne attack against Washington, D.C. or New York around the anniversary of 9/11, according to intelligence officials.

Officials say the alleged terror plot was initiated by new al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's successor.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials told ABC News that at least one of the individuals is a U.S. citizen and one official said that two of the individuals may have had U.S. documentation -- whether green cards or passports was unclear.

The threat was described as specific and credible by federal officials. At a Thursday evening press conference, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said the NYPD was already on alert because the anniversary is seen by terrorist as an opportune time to strike, and would be deploying additional resources around the city. He also said that the threat "has not been corroborated. It is credible, but it has not been corroborated."

"Al Qaeda has shown an interest in important dates and anniversaries. In this instance it is accurate that there is credible, specific but unconfirmed information," said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the New York office, Janet Fedarcyk.

As news of the information became public, authorities began weighing whether to raise the national threat level.

Although authorities said they had not yet identified the suspects, they are looking at multiple names of individuals who entered the U.S. after mid-August. The operatives are believed to have embarked on their journey to the U.S. from the tribal areas of Pakistan, according to two senior officials. One official said the route may have taken them through Dubai.

The information on the plot was "very specific " said one official, adding " It seems like the information has been worked for a while." A second and third official confirmed the specifics of the possible plot added that a declassified bulletin is expected to be issued shortly.

Multiple sources say that federal authorities will send a bulletin to law enforcement Thursday night. The threat, one official told ABC News, is credible. Now authorities are making every effort to confirm it and to hunt down any plotters.

Initially, one of those officials added that at least two rental trucks -- one from Penske and one from Budget -- were being sought nationwide. Those trucks have since been recovered and appear to have had no connection to the plotters.

The threat information was obtained recently and originated from overseas sources -- Pakistan, according to one official.

According to a White House official, "The President was briefed on this specific threat information this morning and has been updated on it throughout the day. The United States government has already significantly enhanced its security posture in advance of the 9/11 anniversary to protect the country against possible terrorist threats. Nevertheless, the President directed the counterterrorism community to redouble its efforts in response to this credible but unconfirmed information."

Earlier Thursday evening, top Congressional leaders were briefed on the terror threat by White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan.

In a statement, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler said, "As we know from the intelligence gathered from the Osama bin Laden raid, al Qaeda has shown an interest in important dates and anniversaries, such as 9/11. In this instance, it's accurate that there is specific, credible but unconfirmed threat information."

"As we always do before important dates like the anniversary of 9/11, we will undoubtedly get more reporting in the coming days," said Chandler. "Sometimes this reporting is credible and warrants intense focus, other times it lacks credibility and is highly unlikely to be reflective of real plots underway. Regardless, we take all threat reporting seriously, and we have taken, and will continue to take all steps necessary to mitigate any threats that arise. We continue to ask the American people to remain vigilant as we head into the weekend."

In New York, police commissioner Ray Kelly outlined a series of stepped-up security measures the NYPD would undertake, even beyond those already in progress in preparation for the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11.

"We will be holding personnel, holding our tours," said Kelly. By adding four hours to those tours he effectively increased the amount of cops on duty by a third.

He indicated increased vehicle checkpoints would be in effect, and that more bomb dogs and radiation detectors would be in use.

There would be an increased focus on transportation with stepped up bag searches, towing of illegally parked cars and increased police presence on the ferries, Kelly said.

"Over the next few days we should all keep our eyes wide open," said Mayor Bloomberg.

But, he added, "For ten years we have not allowed terrorists to intimidate us. ... There is no reason for any of the rest of us to change our daily routines. Over the past ten years, [the NYPD] has helped thwart over a dozen potential attacks. The best thing we can do to fight terrorists is to refuse to be intimidated by it."

"We have to not let the terrorists win by intimidation," said Bloomberg.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


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


Son Honors the Father He Never Knew, a NY Firefighter Who Died on 9/11

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Pat Lyons wasn't the biggest guy on the New York City Fire Department's team. He wasn't the fastest, but he would not accept defeat. His comebacks as quarterback for The Bravest were the stuff of legend.

That supreme confidence also earned him a spot on Brooklyn's squad 252 -- an elite unit trained to rescue other firefighters.

"The best way I can describe Pat would be, when you see his face coming off the rig, he had his game face on, and that toothpick in his mouth," said Artie Sartor, a fellow firefighter and one of Lyons' good friends. "That would sum it up."

He was a huge Miami Dolphins fan. Lyons was also a prudent soul and for him parenthood took years of planning.

"There was this time when we were dating that we went to, like, a local flea market, and we found these tiny Dolphins socks for a baby, and we bought them," his wife Irene said. "It was just a 'ha-ha', you know? And I tucked them away, and I knew exactly what I would do with those one day."

In the spring of 2001 Lyons was giddy when he and his wife learned they would be having a son -- a little quarterback. A few weeks before Irene's due date, Lyons got a call from the firehouse, asking if he would pull some overtime and work on Sept. 11. He agreed.

On that day, it was a mayday call that sent him scrambling into the North Tower at the World Trade Center -- men were trapped on the 50th floor. Irene was at work at a candy company on Long Island when her brother called to describe the scene in lower Manhattan.

"All of a sudden he said, 'Oh, my goodness,' and his voice quivering, and he said, 'The tower just fell,'" she recalled. "So that's how I found out the tower fell, and I don't know if it was because I was pregnant, or in shock, but I dropped the phone and I just went hysterical crying."

Sartor was off that day, but he rushed to lower Manhattan as soon as he heard the news, and resolved to help save his friend from beneath the rubble.

"You know, we, everybody, mindset was like this, nobody showed up here in a dump truck, nobody's leaving here in a dump truck," he said.

But after months of searching, Lyons' body was never found and Irene gave birth to a baby boy on October 7, 2001, whom she named Patrick Mate Lyons. Now almost 10 years old, Patrick, say family members, bears an eerie resemblance to his father, right down to the way he throws a football.

After years of Patrick's visiting his dad's Brooklyn firehouse, his mother wondered how much he understood about the father he never met -- until little Patrick announced he wanted to write a letter to his dad and read it to the more than 2,000 who will attend the fireman's mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

On Saturday, Patrick will deliver his letter to a church full of firemen, at the St. Patrick's Cathedral 9/11 Mass for the Fallen:

"Dear Dad,

I just missed meeting you. You died on September 11, 2001, and I was born 26 days later, on October 7th. I want you to know that Mommy is doing a great job of loving me and raising me in a happy home. I am almost 10 years old now, and from all the stories I've heard about you, I feel like I DO know you.

Every September 11th we go to your firehouse, Squad 252, for a Mass. We get to eat lots of donuts, and see the fire truck. I see it every year ... and every year, I think it is so cool.

On your birthday, the Lyons family gets together and we celebrate you. I send a baseball and football balloon up to Heaven to make you happy.

I think it is really cool that you were such a brave firefighter and that you died saving lots of people's lives. I feel so proud of you. As I get older, EVERYONE says I walk like you, run like you, and have your crazy sense of humor too. I play flag football in the same league as you, and in the same position as you, quarterback. In baseball, I pitch, just like you did. I really like it when people compare me to you.

Mommy told me that when you found out you were having a boy you wanted me to be a left-handed pitcher in the Majors. Well, here's the thing ... I BAT lefty, but I PITCH righty. But I DO plan to pitch for the New York Mets someday.

I have a fun life. Mommy got married again, and I have a dad, a brother and a sister. My dad plays sports with me and teaches me how to do things like ride a boogie-board, build a sandcastle, build a double-decker birdhouse, and clean the pool. I really love him.

I know that you are in Heaven and you are always watching over me. I love knowing that you are a hero.

I wish I could have met you.


Your son, Patrick Mate Lyons"

Out of the mouths of babes, we get proof that it is possible to "never forget" -- even as life goes on.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Florida Students Witnessed the Moment Bush Learned of 9/11 Terror Attacks

Ely Brown/ABC News(SARASOTA, Fla.) -- Sept. 11, 2001, started out as a morning of innocence and excitement for the boys and girls of Sandra Kay Daniels' second-grade class at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla.

"Everyone had their hair done and new bows and everything," recalled Natalia Jones-Pinkney, one of Daniels' former students.

The president of the United States, George W. Bush, was coming to visit.

"The kids had worked so hard," Daniels said. "He was coming to congratulate them for the success and achievements they had made in their reading."

"Everything was so relaxed," according to Ann Compton, the ABC News White House correspondent traveling with the president that day. "This was not a big pressure event. The kids were kind of bewildered by it all, the fuss around them. But they were sitting in their chairs, looking forward and were kind of giggling and glad to see the president."

The day's lesson focused around the story, "The Pet Goat." But while the teacher took her students through reading drills, few in the room knew what the president knew -- that a plane had apparently crashed in New York.

"I had been notified that a plane had hit the World Trade Center," President Bush told National Geographic. "My reaction was, man, either the weather was bad or something extraordinary happened to the pilot."

While the kids were picking up their books to begin reading "The Pet Goat," Andrew Card, the president's chief of staff, entered the room, walked to the president, and whispered in his ear.

"The minute that I saw Andy Card walk into that classroom, lean over and whisper to the president, I knew something was direly wrong," Compton said. "Nobody interrupts the president. Not even in front of a classroom of second-graders."

The students, now seniors in high school but just 7 years old at the time, knew then that something had happened. They could see it in the president's face.

"He looked disconcerted, anxious," recalled Lazaro Dubrocq, another former student. "He was looking at the cameras, the walls."

Daniels, the teacher, was also aware of a change in the room. "He left the room. Mentally he was gone."

Just what had Card whispered in the president's ear? "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack."

For approximately seven minutes the president stayed in the classroom while the students proudly read "The Pet Goat" to him. He was later criticized for not leaving immediately, but to the young people in that classroom, he made the right decision.

"I think if he would have panicked that was the tone he was setting for the whole country," said Chantal Guerrero. "If he wanted the country to stay calm, he needed to show that he was calm."

After the president left the room to be briefed and address the nation, Daniels was informed by a member of the Secret Service of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Then she had to explain it to her young students.

"I told them something terrible had happened and President Bush needs to go," she said. "Remember they were in second grade. They were only 7 years old so I wasn't going to give them every piece of information."

Daniels also had to teach them some unexpected lessons. "I had to teach them really early about terrorists and about mean people in the world. So I would tell them choose good over evil. Do right when it's in your hand and in your power to do so."

Those lessons and that infamous day have left a lasting impact on the students. "It opened my eyes really fast," Guerrero said. "I wanted to know what was going on and so I guess it kind of matured all of us a little bit faster."

Although he felt proud to be in the classroom that day, Lazaro Dubrocq also felt sad. "You feel sorrow for the thousands of families who were destroyed that day," he said.

Now a decade later, the teacher and students from that second-grade classroom continue to share a special bond from being together on 9/11 in such a public way.

"What happened to us made us part of history," Daniels said. "And no matter where they go in life they will always be my babies."

And it's also an experience they shared with the president of the United States, as he wrote in a letter to former student Natalia Jones-Pinkney.

"You and I will never forget Sept. 11, '01," the president wrote. "But remember out of the evil done to America will come good."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio