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The Lights Go Out and PG&E Rushes to the Rescue

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- How critical is the operational integrity of one power substation and what can happen if just one main transmission line is out of commission?

Residents of the Central Coast of California learned some of the answers Sunday, June 23, around 9:30 p.m. More than 145,000 residences from Solvang to Cambria were without power from an outage that utility company PG&E (PCG) at first said was caused by an interruption to a main transmission line.

Early on, the news services reported that Santa Barbara County emergency dispatchers were reporting on Twitter that power lines were down in Santa Maria, the largest city in the area affected. Later, PG&E tweeted that an equipment failure at a substation had caused the outage.

At that point, I was again reminded about the power and influence of Twitter. It's being used to communicate more and more about emergencies and critical events. Remember the partial power outage at the Super Bowl in New Orleans in January? Millions turned to Twitter for the answers, but I digress.

Before too many of the affected households knew what had happened, PG&E crews had restored power to most of those hit by the weekend outage. Others, who had already gone to bed before the failure, awoke to an eerie stillness and darkened neighborhoods.

By the time most were getting up Monday morning, hopefully their biggest inconvenience involved having to reset their digital clocks.

To add to the ironic timing, while Central Coast residents were without electricity, stock markets around the world were plunging in shocking fashion. Not only did China's benchmark Shanghai Index shed 5%, but every major equity market in Asia and Europe closed lower Monday.

Once PG&E's affected customers were able to turn on their TVs, they heard that the U.S. stock market was also in correction mode, but not nearly as bad as China's. The last time I checked PCG shares, they were up down less than 1% on a day that U.S. stock indices were off almost 2% at the day's lows.

The utilities sector as represented by the Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLU) was also down a smidge, to $36.31, at about 1 p.m. EST.

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