News

Palo Alto power outage affects about 2,500 customers

Utilities Department: Cause was a Mylar balloon caught in wires

UPDATE As of 3 p.m., power had been fully restored.

Power went out in the Barron Park area of Palo Alto around 1 p.m. Sunday, impacting about 2,500 customers, according to a tweet from Palo Alto Utilities.

The cause was a Mylar ballon that hit utility wires, the Utilities Department stated.

Crews were working to restore electricity, a task that is expected to take until 4 p.m., the department stated.

A map of the outage can be found on the city's Utilities website.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

The map showed that about 22% of customers in the section of the city roughly bounded by Middlefield Road, Foothill Expressway, San Antonio Road and Page Mill/Oregon Expressway, plus the College Terrace and Southgate neighborhoods, were affected.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Palo Alto power outage affects about 2,500 customers

Utilities Department: Cause was a Mylar balloon caught in wires

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sun, Jan 12, 2020, 1:27 pm
Updated: Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 9:32 am

UPDATE As of 3 p.m., power had been fully restored.

Power went out in the Barron Park area of Palo Alto around 1 p.m. Sunday, impacting about 2,500 customers, according to a tweet from Palo Alto Utilities.

The cause was a Mylar ballon that hit utility wires, the Utilities Department stated.

Crews were working to restore electricity, a task that is expected to take until 4 p.m., the department stated.

A map of the outage can be found on the city's Utilities website.

The map showed that about 22% of customers in the section of the city roughly bounded by Middlefield Road, Foothill Expressway, San Antonio Road and Page Mill/Oregon Expressway, plus the College Terrace and Southgate neighborhoods, were affected.

Comments

anon
Ventura
on Jan 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm
anon, Ventura
on Jan 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm
14 people like this

Glad we still have a gas fireplace, water heater, and stove!


Concerned
Ventura
on Jan 12, 2020 at 2:17 pm
Concerned, Ventura
on Jan 12, 2020 at 2:17 pm
17 people like this

I’m concerned that simple balloon, last time it was a bird, can take out the grid in the entire southern half of the city.

What would happen in a minor earthquake, storm, or wind event?

Anyone else feel like this is pretty important?


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2020 at 3:09 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2020 at 3:09 pm
9 people like this

It is less than a month ago since we had a widespread power outage in Palo Alto. That one was started by a tree branch hitting a power line, on an afternoon when it wasn't windy and wasn't raining. Today there is this one with the excuse being a mylar balloon.

Whether it is tree branches, mylar balloons, geese, seagulls, squirrels, or whatever, our power is unreliable at best.

My question is actually whether anyone has data on how many power outages we get each year, how long power is out, what the cause is, and how much it costs to repair them? Of course, the added question would be to how much the cost to residents, businesses, etc. are because of lost business, lost food and lost wages? I would really like to know the former, because I doubt if the City and Utilities care about the second.

Please let us know how many outages in each of the last 5 years or 10 years?

Please let us know what is being done to prevent or at least reduce the number of power outages?


Independent
Esther Clark Park
on Jan 12, 2020 at 3:13 pm
Independent, Esther Clark Park
on Jan 12, 2020 at 3:13 pm
14 people like this

Isnt it great the city is forcing electric on new homes? Now people won't have a damn thing when the power goes out.


Anneke
Professorville
on Jan 12, 2020 at 3:42 pm
Anneke, Professorville
on Jan 12, 2020 at 3:42 pm
22 people like this

Isn't it time to bury the electric lines underground?


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2020 at 3:47 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2020 at 3:47 pm
7 people like this

RE the push toward all electric, expect our legal fees to skyrocket at PA restaurant owners join all the other restaurant owner and restaurant associations suing to stop this ridiculous move.


CindyG
Barron Park
on Jan 12, 2020 at 4:00 pm
CindyG, Barron Park
on Jan 12, 2020 at 4:00 pm
12 people like this

I agree with many of the comments above - without gas stove we would not have been able to cook during the outage. And, this is the fifth outage since last summer (we had 2 during that really hot day when the transformer near Walgreens blew, one for the seagull, one for the tree, and now one for the balloon). This wouldn't happen if the power was underground. Last summer we are sure that the subsequent power surges that went with this fried the motherboards on our hot water heater, one of our computers, and the refrigerator. Yet these are expenses we have to pay (not cheap!) and don't get to submit the bills to PA Utilities. I think this is extremely important to address, more so than "beautifying" all of our roads and slowing down all the traffic.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2020 at 4:06 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2020 at 4:06 pm
18 people like this

CPAU just blamed the outage on another mylar balloon. So about that undergrounding.....


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2020 at 4:22 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2020 at 4:22 pm
21 people like this

Mylar balloons are an environmental menace ... and for what ... a moment's childish entertainment?
They use us valuable helium that is irreplaceable, as well as take up space in landfills, and kill wildlife.
How come mylar balloons have not been banned?


parent
Barron Park
on Jan 12, 2020 at 4:39 pm
parent, Barron Park
on Jan 12, 2020 at 4:39 pm
18 people like this

Why are mylar balloons legal? Seems like more than half of the power failures in this city are caused by mylar balloons. Shame on stores that are still selling them and customers that are still buying them.


musical
Palo Verde
on Jan 12, 2020 at 4:54 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Jan 12, 2020 at 4:54 pm
5 people like this

Glad my furniture is wood and not plastic. May need to chop it up and burn it someday.


Douglas Moran
Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2020 at 12:36 am
Douglas Moran, Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2020 at 12:36 am
4 people like this

On article's " 'most likely' a mylar balloon":

I live a few houses from the incident and one of my neighbors observed it. He saw a cluster of mylar balloons from a child's birthday party float into the wires. He telephoned the Public Works Department and while on the phone when they shorted the line. He said that they caught fire and most fell to the ground -- trivially extinguished.

It only popped the fuse. The first two hours of the outage were the crew being called in and then getting the bucket truck to the site. The need for safety measures means resetting the fuze is more complicated that resetting a circuit breaker at your home.


musical
Palo Verde
on Jan 13, 2020 at 4:47 am
musical, Palo Verde
on Jan 13, 2020 at 4:47 am
6 people like this

^ Can't blame them being really extra careful after the November 16 fatality.


Anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 13, 2020 at 1:16 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 13, 2020 at 1:16 pm
Like this comment

Please: if you have tree branches, trunks, garden foliage on tour property contacting wires, please clear them.


Douglas Moran
Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2020 at 2:53 pm
Douglas Moran, Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2020 at 2:53 pm
4 people like this

> "Can't blame them being really extra careful after the November 16 fatality."

They weren't being "really extra careful": From what I could tell, they were being normally careful. My intended point was work on these lines requires more time than most people would understand. Safety requires proceeding in small steps with careful monitoring, double-checks,... I got details several years ago when an outage was caused by a car hitting a pole near my house and I talked to the crew while they were awaiting completion of tasks elsewhere.


Family Friendly
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 13, 2020 at 4:17 pm
Family Friendly, Old Palo Alto
on Jan 13, 2020 at 4:17 pm
13 people like this

I second those above calling for our power lines to be buried.

We shouldn't have to suffer power outages every time there's a birthday party or a windstorm. In addition, burying them would reduce fire hazards and beautify our neighborhoods.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2020 at 4:55 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2020 at 4:55 pm
2 people like this

Please do not clear foliage around wires by yourself. Some of these lines are high voltage. They are very dangerous. They need to be cleared by a professional who knows what they are doing. When we were having some tree work done, we had to make sure that we used someone with high voltage experience and special insurance for working near them. It is not a DIY task. A few weeks ago there was a fatal injury to a Utilities worker on the power lines. Please don't touch them.

Yes, we do need our powerlines underground.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2020 at 9:05 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2020 at 9:05 am
3 people like this

Given the increased fire risk we have today, I think it is time to revitalize the undergrounding effort. Let's get that rolling at a defined pace with a defined completion date.

I also think it is time to ban those pesky conductive balloons. I don't understand why they are still legal. Maybe lawsuits suing the seller and manufacturer would put them out of business.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 4:38 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 4:38 pm
6 people like this

Just curious ... burying power lines sounds great. It would be so great to not have to see power lines on our skyline and to have them protected underground to avoid these outages.

Is there no problem with a high water table or flooding? What are the drawbacks to burying power lines, and what can go wrong?


Val
College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2020 at 6:21 pm
Val, College Terrace
on Jan 15, 2020 at 6:21 pm
2 people like this

What are the drawbacks to burying power lines?

Money

One has to wonder what the cost of all these outages are...


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.