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Residents Suffer in Heat, Businesses Lose Money

Laguna Niguel Patch talked with residents and owners who were struggling during the almost 8-hour power outage Thursday.

As one of Laguna Niguel's 65,000+ residents, I too, was affected by the on Thursday.

At 3:30 p.m., I headed out to my car for an appointment and into the sweltering heat only to discover that I had a flat tire. I mean really flat, like a pancake. About 10 minutes later, the power went out and there I was pretty much stranded.

After a call to roadside assistance, I was told it would be at least two hours before they could help me. I waited patiently for the truck to arrive. I had no Internet service and only intermittent cell service. 

Finally, at 5:45 p.m., the tow truck arrived and the driver quickly replaced my pancake with the spare tire, and off I went to get the tire changed. It was now after 6 p.m. and as I listened to my radio about reports of people stranded in elevators and elsewhere from south Orange County all the way to Baja, Mexico, I started to sweat.

Most of the traffic lights throughout Laguna Niguel were working, but that didn't mean businesses were operating as I later found out.

Once I crossed over Aliso Creek Road and into Aliso Viejo, it was like a different world. Apparently, this was one of the only places in south Orange County that still had power. Usually a quiet place, Aliso Viejo looked more like New York City. Traffic was everywhere, and people were coming and going in every direction.

After I dropped my car off for repair, I made a quick call to photographer Barton Mac Leod, who came to the rescue of this damsel in distress about 20 minutes later.  

In between waiting for him and sweating some more, I was able to contact Laguna Niguel City Manager Tim Casey, who surprisingly took my call at 6:30 p.m. Typically, city offices close up tight at 5 p.m.

He said was operating just fine and that the power was on because it is serviced by Southern California Edison. He also said that the switchboard would remain open and a "skeletal staff would be answering calls from concerned residents." Apparently, all was well inside the new City Hall and Casey said he planned to stay put because if he went home, "he'd be without power."

Barton and I decided to check out various parts of Laguna Niguel to see how residents, and businesses were coping with the outage.

Phil Sarozek, the manager of on Greenfield Road, said employees had to put all of the establishment's food on ice. He said if the power was not restored on Friday, they would most likely have to throw away about $8,000 worth of food.

"Tonight, by not opening between 5-10 p.m., we'll lose around $4,000. On Thursdays, we have a wine night and we'll be losing a lot of customers by being closed."

At 7:15 p.m., Romeo's was dark inside, hot, and empty other than Sarozek and one of its owners who was standing by.

"I've been here a lot of years and the longest the power has ever been off is 20 minutes," Sarozek said. "About 11 years ago, there was a huge outage because some guy hit a transformer, but other than that, this is the longest. It could also be our most expensive night of loss."

Down the way, Ralphs had signs posted to its front doors stating that it was closed due to the outage. Most of the shops throughout the center had similar signs and the parking lots were sparse. 

Dixie Bullock and her husband, Dane, said they were in the mood for a cold frozen yogurt, but the doors to were closed.

"We just came from seeing in Aliso Viejo and we thought we'd get a treat," she said. 

When told there was a power outage she said, "Let me guess, SDG&E!"

The parking lot across the street at the was also empty and the lights were off. was also closed as was and

At 8:30 p.m., we made our way back toward Aliso Viejo to get my car and we noticed that businesses were booming. Long lines inside the Subway sandwich shop, Chick-Fil-A and even Ralphs were some of the longest I had seen in years.

The 76 gas station had at least 20 people waiting in all lanes to get gas.

As I waited my turn to fill up, I couldn't help but wonder if this power outage that was affecting millions of people had something to do with a possible terrorist attack. Was it in connection to the upcoming a on Sunday?

Finally, I made my way back to Laguna Niguel via the winding pavement of Pacific Island Drive and into my driveway. At 10:25 p.m. my lights suddenly went on and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I'm pretty confident that the other Laguna Niguel residents who are served by SDG&E did the same thing.

Where were you and how did you cope? Tell us in comments below.

Norm Bour September 09, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Getting home last night from Newport Beach was quite a treat. As I listened to KGO on the radio- a San Diego station- I was monitoring and guessing exactly WHERE in S OC the problem started. Staring at La Paz the off ramps were backed up, OSO was a mess, but I exited Crown Valley to finding blinking Red lights. A positive sign and actually getting to Marina Hills was a breeze. Stoplights on, but no power. The bottom line is that few or any of us are really prepared in any way should we have a truly extended outage.

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