Mysterious DWP power failure caused two-hour blackout

SCARY: All school bathrooms were pitch black during the power outage and some students used their phone flashlights for light. PE was cancelled because students had no place to change.

It was approximately 11 AM on Friday, Oct. 23, and students in Dr. Yoss’s ninth grade World History class were shocked as they checked their iPads and saw that their wifi connections had failed.

Soon after, the lights flickered off, and thus began a blackout that lasted 2.5 hours and tested the patience of the students and faculty.

Shalhevet Facilities Manager Lili Einalhori quickly determined that it was an outside problem, not something in the school itself.

But a week later, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power had still not determined the cause.  DWP spokesman Albert Rodriguez said that the outage, which affected about 7,700 customers, was still under investigation.

In an interview with the Boiling Point Oct. 30, Mr. Rodriguez said it was most likely the result of equipment failure caused by high winds.  However, weather records surveyed by the Boiling Point showed no winds in Los Angeles that day.

A 17-hour DWP outage affected almost 10,000 customers Oct. 10, for example.  That one was caused by a cable that was damaged by extreme heat and high demand, according to KCBS.  According to the Los Angeles Times, 15,000 DWP customers lost power Sept. 10 during a heatwave.

This blackout was relatively small by DWP standards.

“The majority affected lasted only an hour and a half, and then they were able to turn the power back on,” said Mr. Rodriguez .

But at Shalhevet, it lasted much longer.

During the blackout, bathrooms and a portion of the second-floor hallway turned dark. But most classrooms and open areas remained bright enough for learning.

Students brought their cell phones into the bathrooms to use as flashlights, and Mrs. Raelyn Bieda’s 12 noon PE class was exempt from changing into their uniforms due to the pitch blackness that enveloped the bathroom.

Usually air-conditioned classrooms were now said to be “disgusting,” “stuffy” and “difficult to focus in.”

“The building started getting really hot, and I couldn’t focus,” said sophomore Josh Forman.

Although the blackout provided some interruption to the natural flow of a Shalhevet Friday, many found positives in the experience.

Despite the lack of air conditioning and light in the classrooms and it being “so hard for students to concentrate,” math teacher Ms. Jennifer Kong said that “the room was bright enough, and the students were really cooperative.”

Additionally, many classes opted to learn outdoors due to the heat inside. Art teacher Ms. Roen Salem took her class outside to draw at the third-floor lunch tables.

“It was so beautiful outside, and the clouds formed a shin and we all thought it was like God was there,” Ms. Salem said.

Initially, the power outage initiated sleuthing by Mrs. Einalhori and Controller Errol Briggs. The two performed required checks both inside and outside the building, attempting to locate the cause of the blackout.

“We noticed that the DWP electric panel outside in the parking lot was out, which indicated that this was an outside problem and not an inside problem,” said Ms. Einalhori.

They then contacted DWP numerous times for updates, and after being told various possibilities of when the power would return, they were given the final estimate of 7:30 p.m.

Surprisingly, the lights came back on at 1:32 p.m, met by sighs of relief from students as the air conditioning began to kick in soon after. At 2:24 p.m., the rooms still remained relatively warm with the Beit Midrash being 74 degrees.

Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal said the only adjustment he had to make was opening his office door during some meetings.

“It didn’t affect my day too much,” Rabbi Segal said.

However, Rabbi Segal offered appreciation for the unity that it brought.

“I did love hearing the students and faculty simultaneously cheer when the power came back on, that was great,” he said.