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Why Did That Huge SoCal Blackout Happen? Officials Still in the Dark

A near-black skyline in San Diego during the September 8, 2011 power outage (Photo by @zcobb via Twitpic)
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When millions of people in Southern California, and neighboring Arizona and Mexico, were plunged into the dark and left without power for several hours in early September, everyone wanted to know how such a massive outage could happen. When the lights came back on, it seemed to be just one worker's fault, but that employee's error doesn't explain how widespread the blackout was.

So what happened? Well, even officials looking into the incident still don't know, reports L.A. Now:

Utility officials are still not sure what caused the massive Southern California blackout in September and why backup systems meant to prevent such an event failed, a legislative committee hearing was told Wednesday.

What should have happened, according to a top-level executive from the agency that oversees most of the California's electrical grid, is that "the transmission system that brings power to Southern California should have been able to absorb the mistake of a single power company employee in Arizona who flipped the wrong switch."

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Although the power snapping off for 7 million people in a combined 20 blackout events took place in a 10-minute time period, it's going to take maybe months to figure out what really happened, and why.