Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Great San Diego Blackout Of 2011

Let me set the scene...

It's 3:48pm on a typical Wednesday and you're in San Diego, California minding your own business when the power goes out. Within minutes there's mass chaos and a loss of civility. The news says that power's out in all of San Diego, parts of Orange County, and even into Arizona and Mexico. They don't know what happened yet but the say the lines were "severed". People get scared that this is some pre-September 11th terrorist-related event and start going crazy. Looting and rioting ensue. You see lots of car accidents and dead bodies in the streets. You're worried about your loved ones and you're worried about yourself. You begin to ask yourself why you aren't better prepared for disasters and you consider that this might just be your last day. What will you do?

Well, we did lose power here in San Diego yesterday but it didn't end up being that bad. I happened to be over in Oceanside when the lights went out but I really didn't think much of it as rolling black outs periodically occur. I got into the car and headed back out to Escondido to hit the gym. Traffic on the 78 freeway was much heavier than usual but, again, I didn't really think anything of it because I was talking to my dad during the drive. It wasn't until I hung up with him and put on the radio that I found out that all of San Diego had no power. Traffic was busy because almost every business in the county shut down at the same time and people were going home. What is usually a 15 minute drive at that time of the day ended up taking me about 1.5 hours.

It's funny that I didn't notice that almost all of the radio stations were off the air until after I found one that was broadcasting information about what was going on. I went all the way to the gym, which had a "Closed" sign on the door before the full impact of what was going on hit me. I headed back to San Marcos where I'm staying via surface streets, which were also pretty tough. Almost all of the traffic lights were out so every corner was a backed up four-way stop.

Once I got home, I did what any other red-blooded American would do and fired up the grill to cook a couple of steaks that I figured would go bad if the power stayed off for a while, which the local utility was saying could take over a day to come back up. My biggest concern at that point was that I didn't have any more wine! Dinner ended up a family affair as Jim and Maria along with my other two roommates hung out in the back yard all eating a potluck-style dinner together. It was very nice. After dinner we took a walk around the neighborhood and I was amazed at how many people were sitting out front of their houses. I've been here for almost two months and I've seen maybe one or two folks outside their houses at night.

All in all, I know that the economy of San Diego probably suffered a bunch but the five hours without power ended up being a good experience (for me). Most people I saw were relatively polite and well behaved. Once everyone got home, there was nowhere for anyone to go and nothing for them to do. Families and friends were enjoying time together without the usual distractions like television, the internet, or whatever. There was no mass chaos. No rioting. No need to break into the local convenience store to get beef jerky to stay alive. Nope. Just a nice night to hang outside and relax.

Did I mention how pretty all the stars are?

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