September 12th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1936, the Los Angeles region experienced a series of power failures, plunging parts of the city into darkness.

The first outage struck at 1:32 a.m. An emergency power plant near downtown Los Angeles restored power to some areas minutes later and then overloaded at 1:40 a.m. Power was finally restored completely to the region by 3:00 a.m., reviving streetlights, factory machinery, and radio stations. No estimate was given to how many Angelenos lost sleep due to electric burglary alarms being set off or how many employees showed up late to work because their electric alarm clocks were reset.


The culprit for the power outage was a generator inside a steam plant in Seal Beach. According to J. G. Barlow, chief engineer for the Los Angeles Gas & Electric Corporation, a load increase in the line serving the Southern Sierras Power Co. in Imperial Valley caused the generator to lose its magnetic field, and it ceased working. No explanation for the increase was given.

– Michael Dobkins

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