Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I don't think so.  
(Please see my last post for  introductory comments.)

No milk, no ice, water soon sold out. (Some communities lost their water.)
No ice cream or frozen dinners, entrees,  or vegetables.

Yogurts, packaged cheese, cottage cheese, packaged ham and other meats can't be used. The deli counter had to stop serving.


            You’re at work on the 23rd floor of your office building in down town San Diego. It is just after 3:30 pm with only a half hour to go before it will be time to leave.  You’ll be home in just an hour and a half, after picking up the kids from daycare.  Whoops --  mustn’t forget to get gas (petrol) for the car before hitting the freeway! Thank goodness for credit cards! You’re thinking, it’s pizza for dinner tonight while you all watch the opening game of the football season.

Suddenly the whirr and clicking of the computers stop, the air conditioning grinds to a halt, the lights go out and everyone’s exclaiming,  “What the…?”  Yes the power’s gone out!

Similar real life scenarios took place like this  last Thursday, not just in San Diego, America’s eighth largest city, but in every city, small town, small business, restaurant , caf√©, Starbucks, busy indoor shopping mall, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds, Mom and Pop stores, gas station, hair salon, department store, school, grocery store, library, bank, -- you name it – no power anywhere in the whole of San Diego County from the coast on the west to Arizona in the east; from the edge of Los Angeles in the north, to the Mexican border in the south and in some places over the border.

It was almost an hour before most of the six million people affected knew how extensive the power outage was or how long it would last. In actual fact no one knew how long it would last.  Dire predictions were made ranging from several hours to several days.  For some it lasted 24 hours or more.  For us, we were lucky, it was 7 hours.

Offices and businesses in San Diego began to close. Thousands of people emptied out into parking lots and large parking garages) – but not before they had made the long trek down flights of stairs in double digit numbers (shades of 9/11 !) No elevators were working.

The outside temperature was in the low nineties in San Diego. Further inland it was at least 10 degrees more.  It was 109 in Palm Springs. Men dressed in suits and ties, ladies in slim skirts and high heels all made the trek to their cars.  The lucky ones had a full tank of gas, because as the cars began to move to the streets, gridlock began.  Once you were in the car there was no going back, in fact there was no going forward, for hours.  If you ran out of gas you were stuck.

But even if you had gas you were stuck. All the traffic lights were out, so by law every car had to come to a four way stop before proceeding in their turn; then there was the north/south railway tracks that many cars had to cross with no working train or  crossing signals. Buses, trolleys, taxis were all in the traffic mix.  No airline flights going out and very few coming in.

IMAGINE sitting in a plane on the runway for several hours...
IMAGINE…if you had to buy gas in order to get home…
…or you had to buy groceries for dinner...
…or you were in a grocery store with dozens of others  trying to check out…
…or you found a small store that was still open but you didn’t have enough money – no credit or debit card could be processed.
IMAGINE… if the ATM (cash) machine wouldn’t work .
IMAGINE ...if there were no computer or internet available
IMAGINE…if you had to pick up your children at a certain time and you couldn’t get in touch with them because you were stuck for hours in traffic.
IMAGINE… if your cell phone didn't work because they were all jammed by others calling, or if you were at home your land line phone didn't work.
IMAGINE…if  you had your car radio to hear what was happening but you had to choose between using up gas with your engine idling in the gridlock, or using up the car battery to listen to the radio -- or using the car air conditioning in the sweltering heat.
IMAGINE…if you had no candles or batteries or matches at home but you did have a freezer full of food beginning to spoil.
IMAGINE…if you were a tourist in one of the downtown luxury hotels and you had rooms with no air conditioning and sealed windows and little or no food in the dining room and all the restaurants were closed.
IMAGINE… if you were in the hair salon in the middle of getting your hair colored or you were under the drier.
IMAGINE… if you were stuck in an elevator with two small children (one lady was).

The possibilities are endless, some scarier than others. One hospital’s generator  wouldn’t work. And perhaps the scariest of them all:  Was it a terrorist attack?

Well if you have a good imagination, just look around you in the next day or so and see what wouldn’t be working for you if the power went out.

I asked the supervisor today at my local grocery store, a large and busy store in the center of Carlsbad, what was the worst thing about the power outage and he said it was throwing all the perishable food away – yes, ALL.  They had insurance, he assured me, but they had to undo every packet of food and throw away the contents, so that it couldn’t be used and so they could account to the insurance company for every item of perishable food.

On the front page of today’s local newspaper was a photograph of school workers heaping thousands of cartons of juice and milk in to a skip-jack, to be thrown away.

Honestly, it’s mind boggling!  What luxuries and privileges we have and it can all be gone in a minute! The needs of other people in the world who are desperate for food and other supplies doesn’t bear thinking about.

As for the reason all this happened?   They tell us (if you believe them) that it all came down to one man who didn’t follow the correct procedure in replacing some equipment in an Arizona power plant.

All this is true, but for more true, fanciful or original ideas for ABC WEDNESDAY please click on the link for a fun and educational look at other imaginative presentations sponsored by Mrs. Nesbitt and her hard working team.


Roger Owen Green said...

I should send this to my sister. She lives in SD County.
She was running out of gas and couldn't get any more because of the power outage.
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Chubskulit Rose said...

That's a horrible situation. We recently lost water for almost a week but I can't imagine having no power. At least with water, you can buy it in the store but with power out, everything is out.

Inspector Hector is my letter I. Hope you can drop by!

Tumblewords: said...

Frightening. We're just not accustomed to in-convenience. Excellent post - provocative topic.

Wanda said...

I had no idea it was so bad....thanks for all the information...I really think you would be a great news reporter.

Hildred said...

It is pretty scary when you consider how dependent we are on power! Imagine how simple life was in days gone by and how reasonable our expectations were.

photowannabe said...

Very powerful post today Chris.
Imagine....we have so much and are inconvenienced when the power goes out....so many have little or none and live like those inconvenienced everyday of their lives.

snafu said...

Chaos! I can imagine the responsible man must feel a bit bad, but major red faces in an organisation that had allowed such a weak link in their so important chain. Maybe they need someone to give them a course on contingency planning, my rates are very reasonable.
The US military designed ARPANET, the foundation of the Internet to be nuclear attack proof, it can keep communicating even if entire cities are taken out, but it seems they forgot an important aspect of that, you also need an uninteruptable electric supply to run it.

Autumn Leaves said...

I once read a Christian book that dealt with this very issue. It was rather scary reading but sure made me think too.

MorningAJ said...

Have you ever read Jeffery Deaver's The Burning Wire? Perhaps it's a good thing you haven't. It starts with something very similar to that!

kaybee said...

In the big blackout of 2003,that affected Ontario and parts of the US, with over 50 million people losing power for a number of days, daughter of the house was at a friend's cottage. They decided to be very clever and cook whole chickens on the barbecue, so they dressed and arranged five of them on the spit ready to cook. It wasn't until they went to plug in the spit that they realized...oops, this is not going to work!

Seriously, though, as you so ably describe, ChrisJ, it was far from a mere inconvenience for those in the cities. You can read an interesting article about the horrendous ramifications of it, and the passing of the buck as to the cause of it, here:

Ontario commemorates the occasion every August 14th as a day to maximize energy conservation.

Nanka said...

Pretty difficult situation!! I can imagine the chaos, the inconvenience and interrupted life!! It may have been an immense road to recovery too!! You had me very interested in the post and set mt mind thinking too!!

Jane and Chris said...

Oh, yes, the blackout of 2003. Yes, it was inconvenient but it showed people how much we rely on electricity. Did Ontarians learn, and begin to conserve? Well, I can't say that many made any changes at all.
Jane x

Martha said...

I can only imagine. I was blessed to be home when out power was out for four days several years back. (Ice storm) I would imagine some of the folks in Vermont, Pennsylvania, and New Your could relate. Of course, they would be adding raging rivers and torrential downpours.

Can you recall the huge blackout on the east coast a few years ago? I don't know what grid we're on, but we had power while the entire surrounding area was without. Interesting.

jabblog said...

It really does make one stop and think. I hope the 'one man' is never publicly identified, for his own sake.

Jose said...

Imagine all the people living life in peace... in the dark. Wow, the things with take for granted and just assume we will always have.

snafu said...

As a postscript, when the East Coast blackout occurred, nine months later there was a local baby boom. So the presence of electricity reduces fertility in the population I think :)

Kim, USA said...

I heard the blackout and I can only imagine how hard city people could live without electricity. If I was there I could only IMAGINE the life in the farm, so come on let's have fun here ^_^

I am In

Unknown said...

Mine was out for 9 hours, lost much in the lower compartment of refrigerator, and still debatting rather or not if the foods in the freezer is really any good, like don't know what simi defrost or not, so far so good, the pork chops were great and tasty and not spoiled, no ill effects from those, now it is the Chicken turn, won't know until tomorrow when we eat it.

Can't afford to go out and buy anything else to replace what we had lost from the day we all went silence.

Gattina said...

What a nightmare ! for me it would be the worst being stuck in an elevator !

Meryl said...

Kind of scary on so many levels.

claude said...

What a story, Chris !
A day the electricty has been cut all the day long, from morning to evening. I was at home and could make nothing, only embroiding in listen to the radio with battery.
We can make nothing without electricity.

Lisa said...

We are all slaves to convenience now, aren't we? Computers, electricity, gas. Heaven help us if we had to go back to living like we did a century ago.

Joy said...

I like your list of imagines, western society depends on so many things to function, oil, electricity and electronics.

Angie said...

Wow that was a powerful post.
I actually poped over from MM re cats ...we rescued a badly treated cat that the vet estimated was around 12-14 ....she was so skinny and scared but she became my lap cat and we had her for 8 wonderful years. I think you may have many happy years with Scruffy too.

Congrats on your 600 posts ...wow

Dhemz said...

what a great composition....:) sorry for the late visit...thanks for dropping by!