Monday, September 12, 2011

The San Diego Blackout of 2011

Sept 8th was like any other day until about 3:40pm.  I had picked up my mom from the airport (she was in town so we could drive together to my bridal shower in AZ the next day), we had lunch and I had stopped by the hospital to drop off some paperwork for my new job (you'll hear all about this in a later post).

While inside the hospital on my new unit, the lights and all power suddenly shut off.  It took a good 5 minutes for the generator to kick in and for a few emergency lights to come on.  All IV pumps were beeping, patients are calling out and people were just staring and looked confused for a little bit.  As I left the hospital power was still out and I heard a woman say that power was out for all of San Diego.  I thought nothing of it and tried to call my mom, but my phone would not work.  Luckily I was able to find her in the parking lot and we left the hospital.

Little did we know that all surface streets were gridlocked!  All traffic signals were out which meant that people had to resort to 4 way stops.  I guess they don't teach 4 way stops in driving school and I don't think its on the driving test because at least 50% of San Diego's population does not know the meaning of a 4 way stop.  Some people seem to think that honking your horn to let everyone know you are coming through the intersection instead of stopping works.  40 minutes and only 2 blocks later my low fuel light came on so I decided to pull over in a business parking lot and wait out the traffic.  I was nervous to run out of gas on the street and my mom was quick to remind me that no power meant that no gas pumps were working.  I told her that we could just call AAA; oh wait, phones weren't working.  We also didn't have much cash on us and obviously no ATMs were working so we were hoping we could manage on the few dollars we had.  Do I really rely on technology THIS much?  Apparently yes. 

Businesses everywhere closed early because they couldn't do any transactions.

On the radio there were speculations of terrorism and reporters were saying that power was out from Orange County down to Baja, Mexico and as far east as Yuma.  I was a little freaked out.  A few hours later with no change in the the power situation or the "carmageddon" situation, my mom and I decided to walk around and we wandered into the Marriot hotel.  Hotels became a safe haven for people just like my mom and I who ran out of gas or didn't want to sit in the traffic or whose flights had gotten cancelled.  Its amazing to me how in situations like these people become more friendly.  People stopped us on the road just to chat about what was going on and to ask what we had heard about what had happened.  Its nice to see that most people were very generous and willing to help one another.

As the sun set, the traffic subsided and we attempted to drive home on what was left in my gas tank.  Thankfully we were able to make it with a few miles of gas left to spare.  Yet we came home to a pitch dark home because I had no flashlight (well I did but there were no batteries) and 4 tiny tealight candles.  I was NOT prepared to say the least.  We were told on the radio to "activate your emergency plan" and I just laughed because I have no plan.  My only plan was to wait it out and see what happens.  This was definitely a wake up call to be prepared, never let my gas tank go below 1/2 or at least a 1/4, have a plan and carry cash.

Our emergency kit: a glass of wine and a candle

My mom and I weren't sure if we'd be able to go to AZ the next day because we had no gas.  No power means no gas pumps so we essentially had to wait until the power came on to get gas.  There were rumors that it could take a few days for power to be restored, but thankfully all power came on around 2am.  The blackout was not as bad as it could have been, but it was a definite wake-up call for me.  I learned my lesson the hard way and I will be able to activate my emergency plan next time (well lets pray that there isn't a next time).

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