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Storm causes power outage, minor pooling of water

Original post made on Jan 16, 2019

Despite local agencies' warnings that a storm Wednesday could cause flash floods and dangerous winds, Palo Alto weathered the initial rainstorm with only a power outage and some ponding of water on roadways as of Wednesday night.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 16, 2019, 11:16 PM

Comments (9)

15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2019 at 8:43 am

Warning us that there may be power outages every time there is a storm is a terrible situation.

We are in the center of the innovative, technical world, and yet we are subject to the possibility of losing power every time there is a heavy rainstorm. There is no wonder that visitors here are amazed at how old fashioned our infrastructure is compared to the fact that we lead the world in technology. It is so embarrassing and not very funny.

Getting power lines underground is essential for safety and for efficient service during winter storms.

21 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 17, 2019 at 10:15 am

In Palo Alto, we are working on the vision of year 2069 with the infrastructure of year 1969.

10 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2019 at 11:12 am

2019 City Council Priorities (recent email from
-- Transportation
-- Housing
-- Budget & Finance
-- Rail Grade Separation

Undergrounding power lines is nowhere on the radar.

5 people like this
Posted by JLN
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 17, 2019 at 12:28 pm

JLN is a registered user.

"The second outage affected 95 customers in the area around the 400 block of Wilkie Way, just north of West Charleston Road, due to a palm frond that ended up on power lines."

I live very near the house on Wilkie Way whose very tall back yard palm was the source of the fallen frond that damaged the nearby transformer. It's the second time in the past few years the same tree led to loss of local power.
My life depends on electric-powered oxygen devices, both AC and battery powered. The latter has limited capacity if there is an extended outage.

What will the City do to address the root cause of this recurring outage - ie, an overgrown palm tree on private property?

1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 17, 2019 at 1:03 pm

I strongly agree with JLN. Some neighbors may be unaware if they are newer owners of a property that there can be old, dry, poorly maintained foliage from prior homeoweners that is ugly and even puts local homes/properties at risk. Unless it clearly affects them or is totally obvious, some proceed as earlier owners did, with minimum maintenance. Many basic gardeners keep their mouths shut - don’t bother.
Some old dry junk plantings get tall and dry and dead and grown awkwardly and should be thinned periodically or removed entirely. Some reach the end of their lifespans. Start over with fresh, appropriate privacy plantings, whether trees or bushes that won’t affect wires on rear property line or be a poor choice for other reasons.
Note: I am NOT discussing protected trees.
We have a telephone pole in our backyard and electrical, cable, phone wires running along the rear fenceline. We also have a house behind us with very old dry foliage such as I described above. There have been three owners since we moved here, and it’s clear this is what is known as “volunteer,” poorly maintained, low value, tall foliage privet with some ugly dry stumps. I am concerned with the dry stumps and heavy branches close to all these wires (pruning has been minimum over the year, admittedly not brushing the top electrical line at the moment, and the big wood fenceline - there is a potential for fire if earthquake, wind storm, etc. causes a dropped electrical live it looks ugly and blocks the sky/sun to our yard a fair extent. Sad and risky. I noted it to most recent homeowners, they are uninterested since it looks better on their side.

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Posted by Laurus nobilis
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 17, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Regarding undergrounding our electric distribution system: the last report I could find was this update to the Utilities Advisory Commission on January 13, 2016: Web Link

In 2013, City Council decided against forming a citizen's advisory group on exploring the future of continuing to underground Palo Alto's electric service. So far they've converted 47% to underground, but the remaining areas are primarily residential and AT&T doesn't have to pay for cost to underground telecom wires.

Maybe fiber to the home will eventually force the issue as residents switch to underground telecom service and abandon Comcast and AT&T?

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2019 at 4:17 pm

I have heard all the excuses, from blown transformers to falling trees. There is no excuse to keep our power supply subject to wind, rain or squirrels.

It is not just inconvenient for residents, but it can cause big problems for businesses from retail to high tech.

One local small business I know had a big project delivery due this week at 6.00 pm to an overseas customer This is not a delivery by truck but by online download. Employees had been working long hours over the weekend and into the early part of this work to get the delivery ready. Any delay on delivery would have cost big money per hour or part of an hour. If the servers suddenly go down due to a power cut, it takes several hours to get the servers up and running. A power cut to this business would have cost huge amounts of money since the price runs in the millions. Not only would there have been a delay of delivery in the event of an outage, but the damage to future orders would have been serious. How would this business have been able to promise future deliveries on time? How would this customer want to have business from any other similar business subject to similar types of outages. In fact, future business could be lost to another overseas business with better power supply.

We are not talking about not being able to watch a favorite tv show or do a load of laundry. We are not talking about the cost of food in the freezer which has to be thrown out. Power outages cost real problems to utilities customers, and a potential loss of business can be crucial.

PG&E are going into bankruptcy because of legal threats due to fires.

How does PA Utilities feel about a potential legal threat from a customer who loses their million dollar customer business due to poor management of their service? It just might happen.

2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2019 at 5:17 pm

My understanding is that the city gave up on underground utilities because of the tremendous cost, both to the city and to residents. Our block (midtown Palo Alto) converted to underground power lines many years ago. I don't know how much the city paid (I assume many million dollars), but they only provided the wiring on city property. Homeowners had to hire private electricians to hook their homes up to the city lines, which cost us $6000 out-of-pocket. Some of my neighbors had to take out loans to pay $10,000 or more (depending on distance, landscaping, etc). We still get power failures, so this isn't a cure all. This was many years ago, so I expect prices are much higher now.

2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2019 at 8:04 pm

Ask PG&E, pending bankruptcy yet again. Foliage liabilities are not the responsibility of the landowner. Liability is incumbent on the easement holder, ie City of Palo Alto.

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