News

Car crash leads to power outage for more than 3K Palo Alto Utilities customers

Vehicle strikes utility pole near off-ramp from U.S. Highway 101 to Embarcadero Road

A car crash led to a power outage for more than 3,000 Palo Alto Utilities customers early Sunday morning, according to the city's Utilities Department.

The outage impacted 3,330 customers shortly before 5 a.m. on Sept. 11, according to Utilities communications manager Catherine Elvert. The service disruption was caused by a car that crashed into a utility pole at the northbound U.S. Highway 101 off-ramp just south of Embarcadero Road.

A white 2011 BMW 535i was traveling northbound at a high rate of speed. For unknown reasons the driver lost control and the BMW veered off the road and hit the power pole. The BMW came to rest on the side of the road. The driver fled the scene and the vehicle was reported stolen the following day, CHP spokesman Officer Art Montiel said.

Most of the affected customers had power restored at around 7 a.m., except for 50 customers near Edgewood Plaza, who remained without service until 4:50 p.m., Elvert said.

A Palo Alto Utilities crew sent to the scene made emergency repairs on site, she said. As they worked, officers from the California Highway Patrol and Palo Alto's traffic control directed motorists and pedestrians to safely move through the area.

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Sunday's power disruption was the fourth major outage in the city in less than a week. On Sept. 5, there were 4,500 customers who lost power around 10:30 p.m. in the city's downtown and neighboring areas due to a bad transformer and cable resulting from a heat wave. Another outage affected 1,700 customers in the Midtown, Old Palo Alto and Industrial Park neighborhoods for about 30 minutes on the evening of Sept. 6. In a statement the next day, the city said the interruption was made in error. The city was asked to cut off service by the Northern California Power Agency, but officials later learned that a NCPA dispatcher misunderstood a directive from the state's grid operator. On Wednesday morning, a squirrel that made contact with an underground line led to an outage for 4,462 customers downtown. The Utilities Department determined it was the same circuit that resulted in the Sept. 5 outage.

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Editor's note: This story contained incorrect dates for two of three power outages that occurred on the week ending Sept. 10. Palo Alto Online regrets the error.

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Car crash leads to power outage for more than 3K Palo Alto Utilities customers

Vehicle strikes utility pole near off-ramp from U.S. Highway 101 to Embarcadero Road

by Palo Alto Weekly staff / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Sep 12, 2022, 1:33 pm
Updated: Thu, Sep 22, 2022, 9:18 am

A car crash led to a power outage for more than 3,000 Palo Alto Utilities customers early Sunday morning, according to the city's Utilities Department.

The outage impacted 3,330 customers shortly before 5 a.m. on Sept. 11, according to Utilities communications manager Catherine Elvert. The service disruption was caused by a car that crashed into a utility pole at the northbound U.S. Highway 101 off-ramp just south of Embarcadero Road.

A white 2011 BMW 535i was traveling northbound at a high rate of speed. For unknown reasons the driver lost control and the BMW veered off the road and hit the power pole. The BMW came to rest on the side of the road. The driver fled the scene and the vehicle was reported stolen the following day, CHP spokesman Officer Art Montiel said.

Most of the affected customers had power restored at around 7 a.m., except for 50 customers near Edgewood Plaza, who remained without service until 4:50 p.m., Elvert said.

A Palo Alto Utilities crew sent to the scene made emergency repairs on site, she said. As they worked, officers from the California Highway Patrol and Palo Alto's traffic control directed motorists and pedestrians to safely move through the area.

Sunday's power disruption was the fourth major outage in the city in less than a week. On Sept. 5, there were 4,500 customers who lost power around 10:30 p.m. in the city's downtown and neighboring areas due to a bad transformer and cable resulting from a heat wave. Another outage affected 1,700 customers in the Midtown, Old Palo Alto and Industrial Park neighborhoods for about 30 minutes on the evening of Sept. 6. In a statement the next day, the city said the interruption was made in error. The city was asked to cut off service by the Northern California Power Agency, but officials later learned that a NCPA dispatcher misunderstood a directive from the state's grid operator. On Wednesday morning, a squirrel that made contact with an underground line led to an outage for 4,462 customers downtown. The Utilities Department determined it was the same circuit that resulted in the Sept. 5 outage.

Editor's note: This story contained incorrect dates for two of three power outages that occurred on the week ending Sept. 10. Palo Alto Online regrets the error.

Comments

Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2022 at 6:12 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 12, 2022 at 6:12 pm

Thank you for the information. I hope that nobody was hurt, but a single car collision with a pole early on a Sunday morning causes speculation and questions, but pleased that it seems nobody was seriously hurt.

The work appeared to be going on for many hours according to witnesses driving by.

We have had 4 outages in 7 days. One was a mistake. The other three needed emergency repair. I can't help wondering how much these cost to repair, particularly with the need for emergency linemen to be on call 24/7. Do these emergency repairs ever get cost analysis per outage? Does a squirrel invading an underground line cost more than a transformer repair? And the cost of replacing a pole must be even more expensive!

Can anyone look into the cost of these outages to the City? The cost of the outages to individual homes are another issue which probably can't be figured en masse.


rsmithjr
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2022 at 11:21 pm
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 12, 2022 at 11:21 pm

Our utilities department is spending a lot of time and money working on another broadband fiber system. This is unnecessary activity since two large companies are already supplying such services. It also represents a substantial financial risk. Perhaps the city is losing focus on many responsibilities such as running our electrical grid as well as numerous other obligations.


Citizen
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 8:28 am
Citizen, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 8:28 am

You’re missing an outage. Greenacres had two outages this week.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 13, 2022 at 10:42 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 10:42 am

Re the hugely expensive duplicative Fiber project, I asked City Council how they expect to run an efficient, cost-effective service when CPAU can't even send out timely outage reports for regular service. I was told, "Oh, we'll outsource it."

How does spending our money to pay someone else to run this NEW service make any sense when the current electrical grid is so unreliable and which will get even worse when / if we're forced to convert to all-electric.

Notice today's stock market crash? One reasons is inflation much of which is attributed to the all-time high cost of electricity -- now at an all-time 41-yr-old high -- and which is expected to keep soaring because demand is dramatically outpacing supply.,

But please -- don't let reality interfere with virtue signalling and campaign promises.


Anonymous
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:45 am
Anonymous, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:45 am

I hope those who complain that our utility department is being distracted by the fibre project can show some actual evidence for their complaint. Personally I am fed up with unfounded claims.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:59 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:59 am

@Anonymous, they PLAN to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and they NOW can't provide outage updates. They've sent out emails about fiber that ignore that neighborhoods are already undergrounded, TOOK months to respond to an email noting that and THEN asked what neighborhood I live in that's undergrounded, I responded and referred them to other neighborhoods that were wondering what to do since tedthey TOO were undergrounded.

They RECENTLY sent out a "survey" asking for donations and what we WOULD pay for fiber with NO way to say we didn't want it because we were content with our current service.

Is that "founded" enough for you?

I ask YOU where's the city's demonbstrable expertise in running a reliable, cost-effective service. Thanks in advance.


Donald
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2022 at 7:12 pm
Donald, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 7:12 pm

Power to most people affected was restored within about 2 hours on a Sunday morning. That required experienced line crews to deal with the hardware and distribution system. I thought that was a pretty good response time. The web site was not updated until that afternoon, but that was the responsibility of IT professionals and PR people. I care more about restoring the power than updating the web site. I don't want to see the department spend more money on updating the web site or outage information if that takes away from funding the crews that do the real work.


Anneke
Registered user
Professorville
on Sep 14, 2022 at 11:31 am
Anneke, Professorville
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2022 at 11:31 am

Are we truly ready to go 100% electric? I don't think so!


Resident11
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2022 at 2:59 pm
Resident11, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2022 at 2:59 pm

Are we ready to start going electric? Without a doubt!


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