- Associated Press - Saturday, July 18, 2015

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) - City officials were providing shelter and handing out food, flashlights, ice and water Friday as thousands of Long Beach residents endured a third day without electricity after fires in three electrical vaults short-circuited a power grid.

Power was restored to the downtown area late Friday, while several isolated areas remained in the dark since the outage struck a Southern California Edison power network Wednesday afternoon, the utility’s spokeswoman Lois Pitter-Bruce said. She said she didn’t have an immediate count on the number of customers affected by the outage.

In the meantime, city officials opened a shelter in Cesar Chavez Park’s community center. It included a cellphone charging station, hot showers and a place to stay, although pets were not allowed.

Volunteers and members of the American Red Cross were handing out flashlights, food and water. Police officers canvassed the affected neighborhood to ensure people who chose to remain were safe.

The outage darkened numerous traffic lights in the city of 469,000, although power was restored to some by portable generators. About two dozen remained dark Friday.

“We’re reminding people that an unlit traffic light should be treated as a four-way stop sign, and people should be cautious walking and driving,” Tanner said.

The outage was caused by three underground fires that broke out about 3 p.m. Wednesday, sending at least one 100-pound manhole cover flying into the air. The fires were quickly doused, and no one was hurt.

The cause of the fire and subsequent outage hasn’t been determined as Edison crews have concentrated on restoring power, Grigaux said.

Complicating that effort, he said, is the fact the affected network consists of several interconnected links. That means power to one affected area can’t be quickly restored by shifting that area to another source.

Such networks, usually placed in densely populated areas, rarely crash, but when they do, Grigaux said, it is much more difficult to bring them back up. He said the last such crash in California he knew of happened in the 1950s.

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