updated 12/22/2003 5:00:23 AM ET 2003-12-22T10:00:23

Power was restored to all parts of the city after a major power blackout snarled traffic, shut down two transit stations and left downtown stores in the dark at the height of the holiday shopping season.

At its peak, the outage cut electricity to 125,000 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers — about a third of the city. Power was fully restored just before midnight Sunday, said Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for the utility.

A fire at a PG&E substation started the outage about 6 p.m. Saturday, but the disruptions to the city’s holiday season continued throughout the day Sunday.

“Today could have been a $10,000 day,” said Fatima Kioskoi, manager of Jeffrey’s Toys that was forced to close. “Little children have been pressing their noses up to the glass wanting to buy toys. It’s been very hard.”

At the city’s ornate War Memorial Opera House, the San Francisco Ballet canceled a matinee performance of the Nutcracker. “All this afternoon, there were little kids weeping on the steps,” said ballet General Manager Lesley Koenig.

Later Sunday, PG&E provided two generators that allowed the ballet to go on with a scheduled 5:30 p.m. performance, although it was delayed about 30 minutes while technicians made sure the machines were working.

Environmental concerns contributed to the delay in restoring power. Workers going into the substation had to don protective clothing to guard against particles and fumes stirred up by the fire.

Cause still unclear
The cause of the fire and the power outage was still being investigated, Franks said. “There’s no indication that it was vandalism or sabotage. As far as the exact cause, we just don’t know yet,” he said.

On Saturday night, the power outage forced early closures and evacuations at theaters, restaurants and shopping centers, including the Metreon complex on Mission Street.

Street lights stopped working, causing traffic problems throughout the city. The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District closed two stations, but trains continued to run as usual, BART officials said.

Emergency dispatch officials said they did not receive an increase in reported incidents related to the blackout.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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