Copper wiring used for grounding at a SoCal Edison substation in Menifee was stolen on Wednesday, knocking out power to 22,000 customers. Utility officials say the result could have been much worse – potentially blowing transformers and damaging homeowners’ equipment. Tony Shin reports from Menifee for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on April 25, 2013.
Residents across Riverside County were still furious Thursday, a day after copper thieves caused a power outage that affected 22,000 Southern California Edison customers from Murrieta to Perris.
Workers at the Mi Pueblo Mexican restaurant had to take some unusual measures when the power went out around 3:15 p.m. Wednesday. The propane grill and fryer were the only things working.
"We just put a couple of flashlights trying to face the grill and the fryer," restaurant worker Johnny Gomez said.
Across the street at the Heart of Beauty salon, no power meant canceling customer appointments.
"It's not good for us, and its not good for them because they book ahead of time," Paula Flores said.
SoCal Edison officials said workers shut down power for two hours because they had to replace copper wiring that was stolen from a substation in Menifee. It was an emergency repair because the copper lines serve as a grounding wire.
"The impact could be transformers blowing up on the pole, all the way to homeowner equipment being damaged," said Raymond Hicks, spokesman for SoCal Edison.
Power officials won't say how much copper wiring was stolen, or how they think the thieves scaled the barbed-wire fence that surrounds the substation. But they do say that copper thefts continue to be a major problem for them.
Copper sells for about $2.30 per pound at recycling centers, a relatively small price for something that can ultimately cost many others a lot more.
"We just need people to use common sense," Hicks said. "Do what's right and leave the equipment alone."