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Thousands of utilities customers lose power as strong winds pass through Palo Alto, taking down large trees

City: Risk of flooding averted as conditions stabilize

Powerful winds returned to Palo Alto on Tuesday, knocking out electricity for thousands of utilities customers, many of whom saw their service return that night. Another outage on Wednesday impacted more than 4,000 customers, according to the Utilities Department.

The latest outage was reported at 7:18 a.m. Wednesday when about 4,481 customers lost power in multiple neighborhoods. Service came back for all but 1,064 of those customers by 7:41 a.m. By about 9 a.m., just 116 customers remained without electrical service, the Utilities Department said. A total of 132 customers impacted by Wednesday's outage were still without power shortly before 1 p.m. and the number dropped to 25 as of 5 p.m. The outage was caused by a failed underground switch. The remaining customers had service back by the end of the day.

Multiple outages were reported across the city on Tuesday, leaving thousands in the dark starting in the afternoon. Service gradually returned during the evening and nighttime hours. As of Wednesday shortly after 1 p.m., 43 customers affected by Tuesday's outages remain without power and were expected to get service back around 9 p.m. Wednesday. The outages were caused by "a bad subsurface switch," the Utilities Department tweeted.

The city has kept a close eye on the storm. Initially, the flood risk was low on Tuesday night, but by about 11 p.m. the chances were uncertain, according to the city's storm updates. By Wednesday morning, the city reported that creek levels had dropped, conditions were stable and no roads were closed. A flood advisory, however, remained in effect as of 7:30 a.m.

The Police Department advised the public to be cautious when traveling around town due to roadway debris and inactive traffic lights as the weather event continued overnight.

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Classes will go on as scheduled on Wednesday at Palo Alto Unified schools, which have electrical service, the school district posted on its website.

Power outages pile up on Tuesday

Utilities crews were sent out to address the outages. The city's outage map showed 2,080 utilities customers in the 94301 ZIP code, which covers the northern end of the city, saw their power go out at 1:17 p.m.

At around 1:30 p.m., there was a report of wires down in the 100 block of Emerson Street near Palo Alto Avenue, which falls under the 94301 ZIP code, emergency crews said through radio dispatch reports. Firefighters were on scene for about 10 minutes, according to PulsePoint, an app that display emergency calls.

Two people look at the damage caused by a tree that came down near Waverley Street and Santa Rita Avenue in Palo Alto during windy, stormy conditions on March 21, 2023. Courtesy Jean Dawes.

Another large outage was reported in the central to southern end of the city, west of Middlefield Road, where about 1,800 customers lost power at 1:20 p.m.

Wires were also reportedly down in the 3700 block of Louis Road near East Meadow Drive around 1:30 p.m., according to emergency radio dispatch reports. A large tree also came down in the area.

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Other, small-scale outages have been reported across the city, with some affecting about a few dozen customers. There was also an outage that left 445 customers without power in the 94303 ZIP code starting at 1:43 p.m., the city's outage map shows.

As of about 2:20 p.m., traffic lights went black at Churchill Avenue and El Camino Real, as well as Greer Road and Oregon Expressway, emergency dispatchers said.

Shortly before 4 p.m., power was back for about 2,000 utilities customers in the southern end of the city, according to the Utilities Department. As of 4:33 p.m., roughly 1,810 customers remained without service. The number of customers without power dropped down to 749 by 7:20 p.m. and 249 around 10 p.m.

A wind advisory was in effect across the region through 9 p.m. Wednesday. The Palo Alto Airport saw winds climb up to 59 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Multiple power outages have been reported across Palo Alto as of 11 a.m. on March 22, 2023. Screenshot taken via Palo Alto Utilities electric outage map.

Neighboring cities have also been hit by power outages. As of around 2:30 p.m., 3,581 PG&E customers in East Palo Alto were without power. Out of that total, 2,245 customers were in the neighborhoods east of East Bayshore Road to the bay, as well as some neighborhoods south of University Avenue and West Bayshore Road, where power went out at 1:05 p.m. The remaining 1,336 customers were in the area of East Bayshore Road, east of Bay Road to Willow Road, and in neighborhoods east of Bay Road, where they lost power at 1:21 p.m. PG&E estimates power will be restored at 9:24 p.m.

Downed wires led the following roads to be closed in East Palo Alto: eastbound University Avenue roughly between Notre Dame Avenue and the Dumbarton Bridge, as well as Cooley Avenue at Donohoe Street.

Outages across Stanford led the university to cancel final exams scheduled for Tuesday evening, the university tweeted. Service returned to all parts of the campus as of 8:55 p.m., with the exception of the Upper Row houses and residences in the faculty subdivision, which are served by PG&E. In-person exams are expected to continue as scheduled on Wednesday.

The fierce winds from Tuesday's atmospheric river put thousands of Menlo Park, Woodside, Portola Valley and Atherton residents in the dark. About 3,000 PG&E customers lost power in Mountain View as of early Tuesday afternoon.

The outages come a week after a strong gusts took down trees, which led to significant power outages that impacted thousands of utilities customers across the region on March 14.

Storm results in fatal crash, delays for transit and flights

In Ladera, a man died when a tree came down on his van during steady rain and winds on Tuesday afternoon, according to the California Highway Patrol. He was traveling east on Alpine Road near La Cuesta Road when high winds knocked down a large tree that fell on his car, CHP Officer David LaRock said.

The gusty and stormy conditions have also impacted local transit. The entrance to the Palo Alto Transit Center was closed due to a tree that came down, according to SamTrans, which warned of delays on routes 280, 281, 296 and ECR as of 2:45 p.m. A detour was set up in the area until about 3:30 p.m., when one lane opened along University Avenue.

Bay Area airports have reported flight delays and cancellations Tuesday due to wet and windy weather conditions.

About 300 flights have been delayed and 27 flights have been canceled at San Francisco International Airport. The delays at SFO average about 70 minutes.

Oakland International Airport has reported one canceled arrival and 24 delayed departures over 30 minutes. The airport has no canceled departures.

San Jose Mineta International Airport is experiencing minimal delays along with one canceled arrival and one canceled departure due to weather conditions. The airport has also supported five diversions due to weather at other airports.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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Thousands of utilities customers lose power as strong winds pass through Palo Alto, taking down large trees

City: Risk of flooding averted as conditions stabilize

by Palo Alto Weekly staff / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Mar 21, 2023, 1:49 pm
Updated: Thu, Mar 23, 2023, 8:07 am

Powerful winds returned to Palo Alto on Tuesday, knocking out electricity for thousands of utilities customers, many of whom saw their service return that night. Another outage on Wednesday impacted more than 4,000 customers, according to the Utilities Department.

The latest outage was reported at 7:18 a.m. Wednesday when about 4,481 customers lost power in multiple neighborhoods. Service came back for all but 1,064 of those customers by 7:41 a.m. By about 9 a.m., just 116 customers remained without electrical service, the Utilities Department said. A total of 132 customers impacted by Wednesday's outage were still without power shortly before 1 p.m. and the number dropped to 25 as of 5 p.m. The outage was caused by a failed underground switch. The remaining customers had service back by the end of the day.

Multiple outages were reported across the city on Tuesday, leaving thousands in the dark starting in the afternoon. Service gradually returned during the evening and nighttime hours. As of Wednesday shortly after 1 p.m., 43 customers affected by Tuesday's outages remain without power and were expected to get service back around 9 p.m. Wednesday. The outages were caused by "a bad subsurface switch," the Utilities Department tweeted.

The city has kept a close eye on the storm. Initially, the flood risk was low on Tuesday night, but by about 11 p.m. the chances were uncertain, according to the city's storm updates. By Wednesday morning, the city reported that creek levels had dropped, conditions were stable and no roads were closed. A flood advisory, however, remained in effect as of 7:30 a.m.

The Police Department advised the public to be cautious when traveling around town due to roadway debris and inactive traffic lights as the weather event continued overnight.

Classes will go on as scheduled on Wednesday at Palo Alto Unified schools, which have electrical service, the school district posted on its website.

Power outages pile up on Tuesday

Utilities crews were sent out to address the outages. The city's outage map showed 2,080 utilities customers in the 94301 ZIP code, which covers the northern end of the city, saw their power go out at 1:17 p.m.

At around 1:30 p.m., there was a report of wires down in the 100 block of Emerson Street near Palo Alto Avenue, which falls under the 94301 ZIP code, emergency crews said through radio dispatch reports. Firefighters were on scene for about 10 minutes, according to PulsePoint, an app that display emergency calls.

Another large outage was reported in the central to southern end of the city, west of Middlefield Road, where about 1,800 customers lost power at 1:20 p.m.

Wires were also reportedly down in the 3700 block of Louis Road near East Meadow Drive around 1:30 p.m., according to emergency radio dispatch reports. A large tree also came down in the area.

Other, small-scale outages have been reported across the city, with some affecting about a few dozen customers. There was also an outage that left 445 customers without power in the 94303 ZIP code starting at 1:43 p.m., the city's outage map shows.

As of about 2:20 p.m., traffic lights went black at Churchill Avenue and El Camino Real, as well as Greer Road and Oregon Expressway, emergency dispatchers said.

Shortly before 4 p.m., power was back for about 2,000 utilities customers in the southern end of the city, according to the Utilities Department. As of 4:33 p.m., roughly 1,810 customers remained without service. The number of customers without power dropped down to 749 by 7:20 p.m. and 249 around 10 p.m.

A wind advisory was in effect across the region through 9 p.m. Wednesday. The Palo Alto Airport saw winds climb up to 59 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Neighboring cities have also been hit by power outages. As of around 2:30 p.m., 3,581 PG&E customers in East Palo Alto were without power. Out of that total, 2,245 customers were in the neighborhoods east of East Bayshore Road to the bay, as well as some neighborhoods south of University Avenue and West Bayshore Road, where power went out at 1:05 p.m. The remaining 1,336 customers were in the area of East Bayshore Road, east of Bay Road to Willow Road, and in neighborhoods east of Bay Road, where they lost power at 1:21 p.m. PG&E estimates power will be restored at 9:24 p.m.

Downed wires led the following roads to be closed in East Palo Alto: eastbound University Avenue roughly between Notre Dame Avenue and the Dumbarton Bridge, as well as Cooley Avenue at Donohoe Street.

Outages across Stanford led the university to cancel final exams scheduled for Tuesday evening, the university tweeted. Service returned to all parts of the campus as of 8:55 p.m., with the exception of the Upper Row houses and residences in the faculty subdivision, which are served by PG&E. In-person exams are expected to continue as scheduled on Wednesday.

The fierce winds from Tuesday's atmospheric river put thousands of Menlo Park, Woodside, Portola Valley and Atherton residents in the dark. About 3,000 PG&E customers lost power in Mountain View as of early Tuesday afternoon.

The outages come a week after a strong gusts took down trees, which led to significant power outages that impacted thousands of utilities customers across the region on March 14.

Storm results in fatal crash, delays for transit and flights

In Ladera, a man died when a tree came down on his van during steady rain and winds on Tuesday afternoon, according to the California Highway Patrol. He was traveling east on Alpine Road near La Cuesta Road when high winds knocked down a large tree that fell on his car, CHP Officer David LaRock said.

The gusty and stormy conditions have also impacted local transit. The entrance to the Palo Alto Transit Center was closed due to a tree that came down, according to SamTrans, which warned of delays on routes 280, 281, 296 and ECR as of 2:45 p.m. A detour was set up in the area until about 3:30 p.m., when one lane opened along University Avenue.

Bay Area airports have reported flight delays and cancellations Tuesday due to wet and windy weather conditions.

About 300 flights have been delayed and 27 flights have been canceled at San Francisco International Airport. The delays at SFO average about 70 minutes.

Oakland International Airport has reported one canceled arrival and 24 delayed departures over 30 minutes. The airport has no canceled departures.

San Jose Mineta International Airport is experiencing minimal delays along with one canceled arrival and one canceled departure due to weather conditions. The airport has also supported five diversions due to weather at other airports.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

Comments

woodChuck
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 21, 2023 at 3:39 pm
woodChuck, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2023 at 3:39 pm

Thanks God we can always at least depend on natural gas. Oh wait....


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2023 at 6:24 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2023 at 6:24 pm

My son came home from school: I am thinking mostly about the homeless right now not having anywhere to be dry.” Heart wrenching reality. Housing starved humans vulnerable to wind, rain, tree falls, downed wires, flooding.

You’d think we’d get some type of alert from the City of Palo Alto. That. It’s not safe to be out and about unless absolutely essential. Even just for crews to get to downed power lines, trees and clear storm drains. This is where literally the rubber hits the tow and why long commutes for low wage workers from all over BA is such a risk in California climate change. And of course there are no dry shelters for those who are shelter and housing starved,


MyFeelz
Registered user
another community
on Mar 21, 2023 at 6:43 pm
MyFeelz, another community
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2023 at 6:43 pm

@Native to the Bay, many homeless people without RV's or cars are pretty savvy about finding shelter in a storm. But I agree with you, and I think we have become numb to seeing so many street people, we just "assume" they will be ok. Most of us should do the opposite and assume they will NOT be ok. I think in emergency situations like this some of the many empty public garage spaces should be allocated as "dry zones" and those zones should be put on the alerts. Many homeless have access to "free smartphones" and deserve to know where they can go and be welcomed and kept safe and warm.


felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2023 at 7:41 pm
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2023 at 7:41 pm

Thank you PA City utility workers.
Our power was off but you got it back in a mere 2 hours.
We appreciate your work.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Mar 22, 2023 at 7:39 am
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2023 at 7:39 am

Power out around 7am Wednesday. Sounds like PA Utilities needs to embark on a power reliability effort like that Seattle did about 15 years ago when they had repeated wind-driven outages.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2023 at 8:30 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2023 at 8:30 am

When this winter's storms are over (probably June at this rate), I would like to see a table of costs for overtime, supplies, for what our Utilities paid to repair, replace and get our power back. The workers have done a wonderful job in all weather and at all times of the day and night, but it must have been an expensive operation.

Against the costs, I would like to see a similar table of costs for maintenance and undergrounding.

I think it would be interesting to see just how expensive undergrounding would be against the reality of leaving our powerlines dangling among tree branches for another X number of years.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Mar 22, 2023 at 8:41 am
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2023 at 8:41 am

Power back on after 90 minutes, then off again, then on again after another 5 minutes... :(


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Mar 22, 2023 at 8:44 am
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2023 at 8:44 am

@Bystander
I think undergrounding is really expensive because it also includes cable and telephone wires, transformers etc. I know in our neighborhood which was undergrounded 50 years ago, there city now wants to un-underground certain equipment and build ugly metal electrical cabinets in people's yards by the sidewalk.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2023 at 9:17 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2023 at 9:17 am

@MyFeelz - excellent idea about the garages; still lousy but so much better than the streets. Does anyone know if the churches are again doing the shelter program that offered overnight arrangements for women? And if it has expanded to include children and men? Neighbors supplied dinner and assisted with the set/up of mattresses each evening and the storing of mattresses in the morning.

@Bystander: excellent suggestion about seeing the cost of the current approach compared to the cost of undergrounding.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2023 at 2:22 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2023 at 2:22 pm

That was a wild storm. Thanks City of Palo Alto Utilities for quick action getting the power back on. Much appreciated!


EmmaP
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2023 at 8:41 pm
EmmaP, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2023 at 8:41 pm

@Annette Heart and Home Collaborative is still providing overnight shelter for women in the winter months though things have been different during the pandemic. It is looking for people willing to help and in particular to provide hot dinners (search for them online, I'm not sure posting a link is allowed). Note some juggling of location is taking place in the last few weeks so volunteers should check with the listed email about where exactly the shelter is.

Given the power of the storm I think the city utilities people did a good job in getting things working again so quickly.


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