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Midtown area loses power on Saturday night

Original post made by Without power on Dec 27, 2008

The Midtown area of Palo Alto was without power for more than an hour on Saturday night when a transformer reportedly fire and the City of Palo Alto turned off the power to the affected grid. A call to the non-emergency line got a city employee, who said "a grid was turned off" following the fire. She did not say where the fire was or how long the blackout was going to be.<Br>
Portions of Midtown lost power from approximately 5:40 p.m. to almost 7 p.m. The affected area was mostly south of Colorado Avenue. The downtown Midtown area did have power, but areas east of Middlefield and south of Colorado were blacked out. There was no word how the fire started or exactly where the transformer was located, even though one report was at the corner of Loma Verde and the frontage road.

Comments (16)

Posted by Without power, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2008 at 8:09 pm

When the power went out Saturday night, I hopped in my car and drove around the neighborhood to find out what area was affected. Colorado Avenue heading west was blacked out, but upon arriving at Middlefield Road and Colorado, the power appeared on -- at the 7-11 store and the various businesses. Turning north on Middlefield and heading toward Oregon, everyone had their power on. Turning right (east) on Oregon (all the lights were working) I headed toward Highway 101, turned right onto Ross and discovered everyone had power. A left turn down to Louis and again, everyone had power. A left at Amarillo......everyone had power......a right on Greer Road....home still had power......so.... why was such a specific area affected? Homes just 100 meters away and around the corner from my house had power and I did not. Why was the power shut off? Was the transformer in our area or in North Palo Alto? Will the City of Palo Alto let us know what happened or just cover it up?


Posted by JSD, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 27, 2008 at 8:26 pm

A transformer on a pole on Vernon Terrace just off of Loma Verde blew up, caught fire, and shot spark showers. We can see that pole from our front windows and called 911 within seconds of it happening, but the dispatcher already knew about it. They shut our power off about 10-20 minutes after it happened for about an hour-90 minutes. Don't know how long power was/is out on Vernon.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2008 at 8:36 pm

I was walking on Loma Verde by Stockton just before the power went out and I saw what I thought was fireworks at about the corner of Vernon and Loma Verde. I really didn't think too much about it at the time, but the power went out about 5 - 10 minutes later.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2008 at 8:49 pm

This would have been a good opportunity to use CANS, it was impossible to call the utilities as their lines were busy.


Posted by annoyed, a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Without power......in keeping with my goal to be nicer.........get a life.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2008 at 10:16 am

The major news of the weekend in Palo Alto was the power outage on Saturday evening just as it got dark at the dinner hour. As yet, it has not been announced what exactly happened. From what I have discovered from various sources, the power was out west of Middlefield as far north as the area behind Lucie Stern and Fulton Street. I have also heard of transformer exploding on Vernon Terrace (I myself saw and heard the sparks on 2 different times and I thought they were fireworks). I have also been told that there was something happening on Middlefield opposite the Winter Lodge.

Since this outage was larger than what we normally experience I think it would be useful to know why this happened, the official version, and also why we were not alerted by CANS which is what we were expected to be told would send us all useful information in times of emergency. This may not have been a full scale emergency but it certainly would have prevented many of us trying to get through to the utilities in vain.


Posted by Donald, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 29, 2008 at 11:00 am

The power was out for around 1 hour total, right? If they tried to call everyone, the power would have been back on before they finished making the calls. Save the emergency system for real emergencies.


Posted by Kendra, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 29, 2008 at 2:55 pm

FYI Guinda Street near the community center was without power. It was no big deal. Definitely not an emergency. We just enjoyed the candle lights. Don't be ragging on the utility company.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2008 at 4:39 pm

I agree that this may not have been considered an "emergency", but it would have been a useful service for some if we had been given information. We are all electric in our kitchen and I had just started cooking dinner for our hungry family, so it was more than a little inconvenient. After about an hour we just had to pile in the car and drive to go out and eat. Friends had been in the car driving back from an out of town trip and if they had been alerted by CANS on their cell phone text message, as signed up, they could have stopped on the way home for dinner rather than arrive home to a dark house and have to go out again.

CANS has been used for one or two nonemergencies in the past, and this nonemergency may have just provided some information to enable some of us to make alternative plans in a more informed fashion.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2008 at 5:04 pm

I looked on the city web site, hoping to find info, but there was nothing posted.


Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2008 at 6:31 am

This just reminded me of how reliable our electric service is here. There are many places in our country where the electricity goes out several times a year, but I can't even remember our previous outage. Once I figured out that it was just our neighborhood I stopped worrying about what caused it or how long it would be out.


Posted by KT, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2008 at 3:57 pm

This is the second time that a transformer completely exploded. A few months ago my housemate was driving home and saw a fireworks show from 101 at Bayshore right near Greer Park. Now this one! I wonder if the powerlines/transformers that supply the neighborhood with energy are sufficient enough to do so. Maybe a few more of these incidents and the power company should invest some time into looking into putting up some more for the neighborhood!


Posted by In pitch black, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 30, 2008 at 5:07 pm

The thing about power outages is that what residents would like to know is when, approximately, the power will come out. One hour or eight hours or ... ? If this situation was one in which the city knew the problem could be fixed within a certain amount of time, then it would've been helpful to activate CANS with that message.


Posted by John, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2008 at 6:23 pm

I agree CANS would have been nice, but I don't know if I would want to be notified of every power outage in Palo Alto. I don't believe that CANS is that sophisticated. What was interesting only three houses on Moffett Circle were affected (including mine) Strange on how grids are laid out. Barbecued by candle light, kids thought it was great!


Posted by Greg K, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 30, 2008 at 6:44 pm

Don't use the emergency system unless the emergency is city wide or the system can be programmed to only target the areas that are affected.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 30, 2008 at 8:20 pm

Evidently none of the commentators above ever lived in the Midwest or the East. This was no big deal!! Get some romantic old fashioned oil lamps or basic camping lamps. Power outages, if not an earthquake or a major wind storm, don't last very long. Relax and enjoy.
"Roll with the punches".


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