Power restored to tens of thousands in Los Angeles County

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Power was restored to tens of thousands of customers following an outage early Tuesday across several communities in Los Angeles County that briefly knocked a major oil refinery offline, officials said.

The cause of the Southern California Edison power loss in Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Hawthorne, Gardena and Torrance was under investigation.

The refinery operated by PBF Energy in Torrance lost electricity for about 20 minutes, and the facility began burning off its product in response, fire Capt. Bob Millea said.

A huge flare could be seen for miles, and residents near the refinery were briefly urged to stay indoors, close their windows and turn off fans because of smoke.

Refineries typically respond to outages by burning off product to relieve pressure and ensure gases are safely combusted.

All non-essential refinery employees were evacuated, and one worker was taken to a hospital for evaluation, Millea said.

As a precautionary measure, streets along the plant were temporarily closed.

"The flare today was fairly dramatic," Millea said. "We don't want people driving and looking up at the flare and causing a traffic accident."

Fire units remained on scene to help employees bring units back online at the refinery.

PBF officials did not immediately respond to a request seeking information on the outage.

The facility, which PBF bought from Exxon Mobil in July, was briefly shut down last month following a power outage affecting more than 57,000 SoCal Edison customers.

That outage was enough to cut production, and PBF officials said at the time it would take several days to return the plant to full service.

An explosion at the refinery in February 2015 caused it to operate at less than 20 percent capacity for months during repairs. Gas prices in the region increased as much as $1.50 a gallon above the rest of the nation during that time.

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