San Diego's Historic Blackout of 2011

When life hands you lemons, you make Quesadillas! At least that's what we did when the lights went out in our city.

At about 3:30 PM, Thursday September 8, San Diego County, Imperial County, Yuma, Arizona, south Orange County and Northern Baja California, were plunged into total darkness — apparently due to human error on SDG&E's part. Some areas were without electrical power for over 12 hours.

After realizing that power would not be restored until perhaps the following day, school was also canceled across the county.

In a day when a power outage usually entails a minor inconvenience and is normally limited to a few hours and neighborhoods, this blackout darkened entire cities plus cities across the border. Usual indeed.

So, what did we do for food, water, and information?  Fortunately, this was not a major cause for panic in our household; this historic blackout was nothing new for us third-world-country folk.

You see, being born and raised in Mexico, a third world country, electricity is a privilege and it comes and goes as it pleases.  This un-natural occurrence in the most powerful country in the world only coaxed our minds back to those childhood days of frequent and unexplainable power outages, lighting candles, filling up buckets with water, and turning on our battery-powered radios (though we rarely had any news or reason given to us for the power failures, much less press conferences).

After going around our cul-de-sac talking to neighbors and letting some borrow our extra flashlights and lighters, we cleared away the iHome, flat-screen TV, and other first-world communication devises rendered useless by the outage, and made Quesadillas for dinner on our gas-powered stove — the same thing we'd do south of border since gas stoves are far more common in Mexico than electric ones.

We sat at our dinner table to enjoy a typical Mexican meal of warm tortillas with melted cheese, beans, and salsa listening to the AM station on the reliable megahertz frequency radio … Fireside Chat style. 

Incidentally, I'd like to commend AM 600 KOGO for the job they did keeping everyone informed through the night; listening to the broadcasters' was soothing, funny at times, but mostly it was informative. Thank you guys!

And, my candle obsession came in handy, too. The house was immediately flooded in the warm light of the pillars and hurricane lamps already scattered around the house.

As for an emergency kit, I'll admit we don't have one per say, and we are no boy or girl scouts either.  However, my husband had an uncle who was a General in the Mexican military, and he would always tell his relatives about his soldiers' motto, “Always be one third ahead.” This means we have three cases of water in the garage (one for each) at all times, snack bars to last us three days, and enough dry cereal to feed an army. (Gracias mi general!)

The San Diego Blackout of 2011, was historic because it affected 1.4 million people and could have been a major disaster for our city, but it wasn't. Instead, it brought us all a little closer again and, in a way, provided us all with yet another thing to have in common (and fodder for neighborly conversations) similar to the event that also united us which ironically occurred this same month almost to the day ten years ago: 9/11.

If there's a take away from this power outage is that we should be somewhat prepared for the worst at all times. And, take it from me and always have tortillas, cheese and salsa, a few cases of water in your garage, and the third-world version of a radio.

Barring a natural disaster, these Mexican staples will make any unforeseen power outage a cultural experience, too.

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