Thousands of Long Beach residents remained without power Thursday and stoplights around downtown were still dark, more than 24 hours after fires in three electrical vaults knocked out electricity to a section of the beachfront-port city.
Southern California Edison crews were working around the clock to restore power and hoped to have it back on to most people overnight, said Paul Grigaux, vice president of transmission, substations and operations for the utility company.
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But he added that some customers might remain without electricity well into Friday, more than 48 hours after the outage occurred.
"We're hoping it won't extend beyond that, but that is a possibility," he said.
At the height of the outage Wednesday, 6,300 businesses and residences were without power, Grigaux said. It had been restored to all but 2,700 by Thursday afternoon.
As crews work to find the sources of the outage and make repairs, they are having to periodically shut off power to as many as 11,000 other customers. But those outages only last about 30 minutes.
The underground fires, which broke out at about 3 p.m. Wednesday, sent at least one 100-pound manhole cover flying into the air.
The flames were quickly doused, however, and no one was hurt.
Bringing the system all the way back up is the real problem now, Grigaux said, because it requires section-by-section testing.
"Generally speaking, it's one of the most reliable networks in the country," he said of the system that failed. "But when significant failures do occur, it can complicate the restoration."
The outage caused traffic lights to go dead in the downtown area, making it difficult for emergency vehicles to get to their destinations, said Long Beach Fire Department spokesman Jake Heflin. It may have also led to a fire caused by burning candles that were left unattended in an apartment where the power had gone out.
Two people were hospitalized with critical burns suffered in that fire, Heflin said, and 27 people in surrounding apartments had to be evacuated and seek shelter elsewhere.