Esther Kang

Metallic balloon causes blackout in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach

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The Shellback Tavern could not be slowed by a mere blackout. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon

The Shellback Tavern could not be slowed by a mere blackout. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon

A stray metallic balloon was the cause of a power outage Thursday night affecting some 3,800 residents and businesses throughout Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, a Southern California Edison spokesperson said.

A little before 9 p.m., a balloon came into contact with a high voltage line next to a transformer outside The Strand House near 12th Street and Manhattan Beach Boulevard, said SCE regional manager Scott Gobble. The transformer exploded as a result. The Manhattan Beach Fire Department and an SCE crew responded to the scene; no one was injured.

About 1,800 customers—bordered by Rosecrans Avenue to the north, Aviation Boulevard to the east, Herondo Street to the south and the ocean to the west—experienced a momentary outage that was restored within a minute, Gobble said.

The failed transformer subsequently caused power lines to go down in the 100 block of Poinsetta Avenue, he said, affecting about 2,000 customers bordered by Meadows Avenue to the east, 9th Place to the north, 31th Street to the south and the ocean to the left.

This group of customers remained without power until 5:20 a.m., Gobble said.

Brett Anderson, an assistant general manager at M.B. Post, said his restaurant had a line of customers waiting out the door when the blackout occurred. With no power in the kitchen, they were forced to turn away the line outside and shut down service for their remaining guests.

“It’s definitely a frustration as a business operator,” Anderson said. “It’s a huge inconvenience because not only is there a loss in sales but we’re not able to do anything about taking care of the guests there and the guests coming in. There’s only so much that we can do from our end. It’s definitely impacted our business substantially with these power outages.”

Thursday night’s blackout—the second unplanned outage this month—followed SCE’s all-day power outage Wednesday during a system upgrade at its substation on Duncan Street and Dianthus Street in Manhattan Beach. Some 3,500 customers were affected.

On June 1, about 3,600 customers throughout Manhattan Beach and Torrance lost power for several hours due to failed underground equipment. City Hall and downtown businesses were among those affected, and the city’s Police/Fire facility was left to operate on generators.

Gobble noted that while the company is working to upgrade facilities and upkeep its aging system in Manhattan Beach and other South Bay cities, it has “limited control with metallic balloons that have been released into the sky.”

The Manhattan Beach City Council has expressed strong support for Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi’s Assembly Bill 66, which would mandate the California Public Utilities Commission to require electrical corporations such as SCE to disclose information on its system reliability, including the frequency and duration of service interruptions, in their annual reliability reports.

In a statement last week, SCE said it is “neutral” on the proposed bill, which will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee early this month.


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