News


On hottest day of the year, two power outages affect thousands in Palo Alto

Heat wave triggers equipment failure, putting 7,000 without electricity in first outage; second outage breaks out due to loose overhead wire

About 4,000 Palo Alto Utilities customers were left in the dark due to a power outage on Monday night, one of two service disruptions to impact the city in less than seven hours.

The nighttime outage that affected about 4,000 customers in the Barron Park neighborhood area began around 10 p.m. and ended at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Palo Alto Utilities Communications Manager Catherine Elvert said. It was caused by a overhead wire on Park Boulevard that became loose, possibly due to stress from switching customers impacted by another large outage earlier in the day to another circuit.

"The 'sleeve" insulating and carrying the wire may have been older & failed," Elvert said in an email to the Weekly.

About seven hours earlier around 3 p.m., roughly 6,943 customers were without electricity for about two hours, according to the agency's power outage map.

The afternoon outage impacted customers in south Palo Alto in an area that spans from Matadero Avenue to San Antonio Road and Middlefield Road to Deer Creek Road, according to Palo Alto Utilities.

A crew restored power to all the impacted customers as of 5:15 p.m. The outage may be related to equipment problems with transformers at the Maybell substation, Elvert said. Operations staff reported it may have been caused by a piece of equipment that failed in a transformer at the substation. The Utilities later determined the outage was caused by high temperatures that led the equipment to fail.

Other outages that popped up around the city Monday for about 25 to 30 customers in each area was a result of "heat related stressors on the electric grid," Elvert said.

A check of the city's outage map 7 a.m. Tuesday showed other smaller ones that broke out Monday night were resolved.

Local residents have been advised to exercise caution on the road where some traffic lights were out of service.

View the Palo Alto power outage map.

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Comments

32 people like this
Posted by Winter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2019 at 3:17 pm

Second one in a week for me and my neighborhood.
&@$?%#€£¥!
Just saying...


4 people like this
Posted by pizza smith
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jun 10, 2019 at 3:23 pm

We need cause analysis and plan in this super hot summer, thanks.


8 people like this
Posted by Dendromecon
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 10, 2019 at 3:44 pm

Dendromecon is a registered user.

Is anyone else having trouble loading the outage map at Web Link?

Recently, the cityofpaloalto.org web site has been very slow to launch.
PA Weekly - can you please look into this?


7 people like this
Posted by Give Us a Break
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jun 10, 2019 at 3:50 pm

Power Outage map does not load at all for me. It has been hard to get information on this outage at all.


12 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 10, 2019 at 3:52 pm

The answer always boils down to higher taxes.


11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2019 at 3:54 pm

Perhaps we should be compensated by our efficient utilities for the many times we lose power. Traffic is a mess due to lights not working. Businesses forced to close. This is Silicon Valley where we can lose power to seagulls, balloons and rain in winter.

What is this costing the Palo Alto economy?


20 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Old Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jun 10, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Imagine the congestion w the Stanford buildout and all the 'affordable' housing Sacramento and PAF wants built! Hello high density hell!


26 people like this
Posted by :(
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 10, 2019 at 4:39 pm

South Palo Alto always gets screwed.


18 people like this
Posted by Root cause of outage
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 10, 2019 at 5:50 pm

South session of Palo Alto has much more high density residential buildings, and the City is planning to add more and more. Make sure there is enough power to support south part of Palo Alto in such a hot day with everyone turn on AC or portable AC at home.


Like this comment
Posted by plantfruittrees
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jun 10, 2019 at 6:57 pm

plantfruittrees is a registered user.

Started at 2:45.


3 people like this
Posted by Safety First
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

@musical,
Not really in this town. Safety departments take a back seat to planning. So, lots of things that could be done for cheap if we put safety first, don't get done. Get some of those Thermo Gel fire protectants for the neighborhood. Just sayin'.


4 people like this
Posted by Geez
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 10, 2019 at 9:58 pm

Power out... again.


4 people like this
Posted by B
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 10, 2019 at 10:01 pm

10pm whole neighborhood blackout


16 people like this
Posted by Thanks Eric and Ed
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2019 at 10:04 pm

The city manager and the mayor are responsible for making sure that basic services function well. Electricity counts. Eric and Ed if you're not up to the job we would be happy to hire replacements.


4 people like this
Posted by Harris
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 10, 2019 at 10:29 pm

Lived here 7 years. This is the first blackout on Matadero.


20 people like this
Posted by Warm Venturan
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 10, 2019 at 10:34 pm

Am a warm (too warm) Ventura resident.

Am very unsatisfied with the performance of City of Palo Alto Utilities.

The website is overloaded (takes a minute to "load" an error message). What is this amateur hour stuff? Why not a simple static image hosted on Amazon or Google cloud, which would load instantly and require no server at all?

Their phone system is swamped - got a fast busy tone or automated recording with no information.

Second power outage in a day in South Palo Alto.

So to sum it up we have:
* A poorly designed or maintained local electrical grid.
* Very poor to the point of disfunctional communication channels.

I heartily endorse a shake-up at CPAU. Maybe instead of transferring funds from CPAU to the general fund, CPAU should invest in infrastructure - both electrical and communication?


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2019 at 10:45 pm

More outages this evening. Not cool.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2019 at 10:47 pm

Additionally, best source to find out about outages is their PA Utilities Twitter feed.


19 people like this
Posted by E
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2019 at 10:50 pm

How about investing our tax dollars into upgrading or improving our infrastructure to support tax paying citizens instead of trying to build another trailer park for vehicle dwellers?

I'd rather have dependable electricity vs having that money going to fund housing for people who don't even "live" in Palo Alto.


20 people like this
Posted by Mismanagement
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 10, 2019 at 11:06 pm

We should commission a 3rd party assessment of our city’s power grid, especially with an eye toward growth plans and resiliency in the face of disaster or accident.

There’s no way this is standard quality service, this wreaks of mismanagement.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 10, 2019 at 11:13 pm

We should organize a big caravan to Guatemala.
Reminding ourselves how lucky we are to be here.
Or maybe this is all orchestrated to bring down our housing prices.


6 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2019 at 1:34 am

> Reminding ourselves how lucky we are to be here.

Cute, but would be good to know why the Utilities folks decided to spend time troubleshooting transformers on Tasso in North Palo Alto for 24 households instead of root causing and fixing the underlying the problem in the south part of Palo Alto that affected 4,000 households.

What’s the story guys?


Like this comment
Posted by We should do more voting
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2019 at 7:20 am

I think we should vote for more restrictions on power plants, and prevent any more hydroelectric dams from construction!

That’ll make sure we save the environment. Air Conditioning is contributing to global warming, and now the earth is paying us back.

Down with Big Electricity!


13 people like this
Posted by Prassad Mahajan
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2019 at 7:30 am

The stifling heat and yesterday's electrical blackout with no air conditioning reminded of the reason we moved from Mumbai to Palo Alto.

Unfortunately there is no River Ganges from which to cool off.

I encountered some residents from the trailer park who said their dwellings were like living in a metal tool shed.

Later I saw some RV residents who were running their AC generators and overheard one saying that living in Palo Alto and off the grid is the only way to go. They had a small gas stove going and were preparing their evening dinner.

It must be nice to reside in Palo Alto without the various encumbrances and problems regular residents have to endure.

The RV dwellers were even kind enough to offer me a hot dog but I am a vegetarian and do not consume what could be construed as remnants of my ancestral lineage.


7 people like this
Posted by odiledb
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2019 at 10:35 am

These types of outages do not happen in the 94301 zip code nor would they be tolerated.
The Utilities department explanation for the outage, worn sleeve, wires being substituted and a transformer issue at Maybell signal deferred maintenance issues.
In the past, infrastructure and maintenance projects have been prioritized starting with North Palo Alto, the rationale being advance is that it is the older part of town, this while the bulk of sales taxes (excluding the shopping center) are generated in South Palo Alto.
We should ask for more disclosure on the past five years of capital spending in the North vs South Palo Alto and evaluate whether it is weighted on a per capital basis.
Lastly it is time to follow the example of our neighboring cities and transition from an "at large" election system for City Council to "district elections" which take into account population.


1 person likes this
Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Why is it always south Palo Alto with the issues??? We need to rally together and go to a city council meeting.


17 people like this
Posted by Online Nane
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 11, 2019 at 12:49 pm

One reason 94301 doesn't have many power outages is that we had to PAY to underground our utilities about 10-15 years ago. I paid about $8500 for the undergrounding, trenching etc from my property to the street -- as did many others!

Last year at a CC meeting, undergrounding the whole city was brought up but former city manager Jim Keene and former CC member Scharff said we couldn't "afford" it. Vice Mayor Adrian Fine said he was unaware that any parts of PA had been undergrounded even though he's lived here his whole life.

Instead of competent informed leadership and reliable reasonably priced service, PA Utilities just keeps hitting us with constant utilities rate increases.


11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 11, 2019 at 1:27 pm

PS: I just remembered that former CC member Scharff is now a member if the PA Utilities Commission. So ask him if he thinks undergrounding is still the "unaffordable pipe dream" as he opined last year.


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of University South
on Jun 11, 2019 at 4:53 pm

The issue with undergrounding is that while Utilities can move forward on electrical service in any area, AT&T will only reimburse the City (under CPUC rules) for only a few remaining places in Palo Alto. These are primarily commercial areas.

Web Link

The report is almost 10 years old, but gives a good idea of why undergrounding is difficult and expensive. The constraints are somewhat daunting.

Here's a map of the current underground districts in Palo Alto:

Web Link

Barron Park was annexed by the City in the 1970's and most of the electrical infrastructure was upgraded and replaced in the 1990's. The distribution line failure (wires at the very top of the pole) last night was actually in Ventura along the 3300 block of Park Boulevard. Utilities undergrounded power lines on Park closer to California Avenue, near where the new public safety building will be constructed. But, even that underground line has had many problems over the years providing reliable service to businesses in the area.


Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2019 at 5:59 pm

"I just remembered that former CC member Scharff is now a member if the PA Utilities Commission. So ask him if he thinks undergrounding is still the "unaffordable pipe dream" as he opined last year."

That's the Utilities Advisory Commission. Scharff thankfully has no authority at all.


Posted by Plastic over people
a resident of University South

on Jun 11, 2019 at 7:24 pm


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Like this comment
Posted by Prassad Mahajan
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2019 at 7:31 pm

> Why is it always south Palo Alto with the issues???
> South Palo Alto always gets screwed.

^^^ I raised this question & a neighbor said it is because South Palo Alto is considered to be a less desirable part of the city compared to other more affluent neighborhoods in PA. Ventura, Barron Park (formerly unincorporated) and parts of Midtown do not measure up in the eyes of other PA residents, RE agents and the Chinese even through housing prices have escalated over the past years. He said to just look around and I would get the point. Other less than desirable sections of town include the duplexes along Alma and the East Meadow area between ECR and Alma. These are considered by some to be the crappier parts of PA.



Like this comment
Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2019 at 8:51 pm

Joel is a registered user.

I was slightly upset until I thought about the many years I spent freezing in Massachusetts as a child and that sent me to find a flashlight and recover the darkness that was not a problem but a blessing. The quiet, the challenge , and the ability to respond appropriately by finding the way around my house and land. We all are responsible for the outages.
How can we stop blaming those we hold responsible for our choices to over burden our systems. C'mon turn ff the AC's, let's discuss how we can all find an answer to the changing climate and remember that we can survive with our wits.
Thank you for reviving our electricity Palo Alto. I was so relieved to wake up and shut off all my uses. Remember when we didn't have it. So many months in the winter adhere we are surviving. Love it!


3 people like this
Posted by Compare Planning Processes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2019 at 5:11 am

South Palo Alto does get screwed by the City Council and continues to be.

Consider the multi-year deliberate planning process when the Palo Alto Medical Foundation left its former land south of Forest Avenue. Housing was built that fit into the neighborhood (including low income housing) and a large park (Heritage Park) was create.

Compare that with the North Ventura planning process when Fry's is leaving. It's a rushed process destined for large buildings that will mostly dwarf the surrounding neighborhood. Is that because Ventura is the cheapest real estate in town with the most renters?

We do need district elections. How about 3 districts, north, south, and west, with overlapping four-year seats elected from each district every other year, and an elected Mayor with two-year terms? Then we will see more attention and resources in South Palo Alto. And power, both electoral and electrical.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2019 at 10:14 am

Rather than making comparisons between north and south PA, I would much prefer to see comparisons made between Palo Alto and other Peninsula cities.

How often does a power outage occur in Mountain View, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Atherton, Los Altos, compared to us? How does the undergrounding process work in these places compared to us?

What real advantages do we have over PG&E, if any? I tend to think we are the poor relation in service, but I would appreciate a journalistic investigation into service and reliability issues.


3 people like this
Posted by Zhang Zhou
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 12, 2019 at 1:36 pm

> Ventura, Barron Park (formerly unincorporated) and parts of Midtown do not measure up in the eyes of other PA residents, RE agents and the Chinese even through housing prices have escalated over the past years.

This is true. These houses make good short-term starter homes for some Chinese with only $2M in cash to spend towards housing. Most prefer better PA neighborhoods.


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