Town Square

No power on Thanksgiving

Original post made by Jim, Midtown, on Nov 22, 2012

So we awoke Thanksgiving day to a power outage at 6:41. The lights came on then went off, along with all the power. Interesting enough, the power outage was limited to the Midtown area, east of Middlefield. Starbucks and 7-11 were untouched by the outage, but all the homes east of them were. This is not the first time this has happened in our area. We pay our bills and this is what we get. In addition, the outage messed up our new gas range, locking the door. We had to turn on the self-cleaning mode and then turn it off. Supposedly, when it "cools" the door will unlock itself. Otherwise, no turkey will be cooked today. So, to the City of Palo Alto, why is the Midtown area always getting the short end of the stick when it comes to power outages in the city? I would bet we have more than any other area in the city. Thanks a lot for messing up the day. Can't wait to see what happens Christmas Day.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2012 at 10:50 am

This marks the second day I've had power outages, and I'm in Crescent Park, not Midtown.

Yesterday my power went out for a moment, and then right back on, enough to "blink" all my clocks and power-cycle all my computer and network stuff. Is the City going to pay me when something electronic breaks from all this nonsense?

Now today as well, and in Crescent Park too ... what the you-know-what is wrong with Palo Alto power? And why do they have to lie about it on the City web page?

And then, if you call the number to report power outages, they will not pick up or let you report unless your phone is from a verified Palo Alto prefix. I happen to have a cell phone that I keep with my old Mountain View number on it so they do not even do me the respect of answering the line.

No, Crescent Park was not mentioned in their outage report. I don't know, maybe it
was just a surge or transient on the line, but they do not even seem to know about it.

This is crappy service in my opinion. I don't get many outages, but then they start turning off and on my power daily and pretend it did not happen, it tends to bother me.


Power outage in Midtown Thursday, November 22

Most customers were restored to power at 8:22 AM, except for about 40 customers. Utility crews will continue to work and make repairs to restore power to the remaining customers still without power.

At 6:40 AM on Thanksgiving morning, a power outage occurred in Midtown impacting nearly 2,000 customers. The cause is currently unknown; however a three-person utility crew arrived on scene at about 8 AM to assess the situation and begin repairs.

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Posted by disintegratiing infrastructure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Don't worry, our infrastructure is fine. Nothing to see here.

No need to rebuild or improve.

No need to put un/underemployed Americans back to work.

Nothing to see here.

Carry on.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Are you guys serious? To imply it is intentional? Gimme a break! We probably have the most reliable supply here than any place on the planet! Have you ever spent any time in a city where it is common to lose power several times a day? That s an infrastructure issue. Stop whining and if you have sensitive electronics its your responsibility to put them on a ups, not the city's! Get off your high house!

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2012 at 8:54 pm

There was also a power cycle(off and on in 1 sec) on Wednesday around noon. No doubt this was a sign of impending failure, but I doubt anyone in the Utility dept paid any attention.

30 years ago, the utility dept was staffed by competent professionals, now I am appalled at the lack of technical knowledge in the current utility crews. I don't think the Utility Dept is qualified to maintain the infrastructure.

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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

We get our share of them, too. It is still better than PG and E. They once let us go for three days without power. I could not cook, the house was freezing cold, and I had a little baby. They told me to just wait my turn, and that everyone should have a generator for such times. So we went and checked into a hotel, and then deducted the bills from the PG and E bill that month. PG and E threatened to turn off our power permanently and send our bill to collection! They dropped it when we got a lawyer to send them a "friendly" letter, though.

I doubt you would have to go that far with PA Utilities.

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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 23, 2012 at 9:28 pm

> Are you guys serious? To imply it is intentional?

Bob, I'm serious ... but nowhere did I imply this was intentional. I'd just like to know what is going on and if it will stop.

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Posted by AG
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 26, 2012 at 10:59 am

I do believe Midtown residents have been disproportionately affected in recent outages, though the numbers are small, so it would be hard to prove statistically. I think we've seen two more outages than many other Palo Alto locations in the past year. I live right on the edge of the affected area and my neighbors across the street were not affected. I suspect there are some issues in the grid that makes Midtown more susceptible, and it would get attention in, say, Professorville. This needs to be investigated and we should see a plan to address it. We might need to organize to press the legal buttons to make this happen.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Any update on the cause of the outage? PA Weekly, have you investigated this outage?

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Posted by Debra Katz
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm

As Utilities Communications Manager, I'd like to address a few points in the comments above. This commentary will be long, but if you have an interest, you can get the full scoop.

First I would like to extend appreciation to those commentors who correctly noted that our reliability is actually better than most places. I realize, however, that is slim consolation to someone who wakes up Thanksgiving morning with no power!

1) "LIES ON WEBSITE" I'm not sure what the commentor who claimed this was referring to, but I AM sure no lies were posted. We are a municipal utility that has neither incentive to nor interest in misrepresenting facts to our community-owners. What can and does happen is we report what we know at any given time...and if new information develops we then change our postings accordingly.

2) "PALO ALTO'S ELECTRIC INFRASTRUCTURE" is poorly maintained by inept crews. We have both a blessing and a curse...the blessing is that foresighted founders started this Utility in 1900 and as a result we've had local control and lower rates for over 110 years. The curse is that the system is old and has needed a lot of upgrading to handle the burgeoning electric demands of modern society. Our system improvement program has been aggressive, but as we work our way around town upgrading equipment, there will always be areas with older equipment that can fail before we get to it.

3) MORE OUTAGES IN MIDTOWN than elsewhere...the equipment in Midtown definitely was ready for replacment and as it happens we have a major capital improvement project underway right now upgrading the equipment that serves this area. (Indeed, a couple of blocks are scheduled for PLANNED shut downs this week for this very work to be completed.) The result should be greatly improved reliability.)

4) Finally, WHAT HAPPENED ON THANKSGIVING, if you want the full "technical" scoop it is that a part (cradled elbow)was in an underground vault which filled with water during recent rains. The water entered the elbow which caused the termination to fault and triggered the outage. Two points to note are that we are changing the specific type of elbows used in these vaults so this particular reason for an outage will be eliminated AND moving these vaults above ground is a significant part of the electric upgrade process I was referring to in item 2 above.

I hope this is helpful to some readers. I can be contacted directly any time via email at

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on Jun 6, 2017 at 5:00 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?