Power Finally Restored After Huge Outage in San Francisco

A waiter at Swan Oyster Depot carries food to customers during a citywide power outage  that could be related to a fire at a PG&E substation.

A waiter at Swan Oyster Depot carries food to customers during a citywide power outage that could be related to a fire at a PG&E substation. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A power outage in San Francisco Friday affected about 90,000 customers, from the Financial District to the Presidio, according to the San Francisco of Department of Emergency Management. The outage — likely caused by a fire at a PG&E substation — started around 9 a.m.

As of 3:30 p.m., only about 3,000 customers were without power, according to PG&E, and it was fully restored a little after 5 p.m.

A circuit breaker failed at a Pacific Gas and Electric substation at Larkin and Eddy streets, causing an electrical fire. At 9:30 a.m. San Francisco emergency dispatchers were notified that there was a fire at the substation, according to San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White. Insulation at the substation caught fire, and continued to reignite until the Fire Department could bring a carbon dioxide unit to help put out the blaze.

San Francisco fire department crews stand outside of an electric substation where a fire occurred and might have caused the outage.
San Francisco Fire Department crews stand outside an electric substation where a fire occurred and might have caused the outage. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PG&E Vice President of Electric Distribution Barry D. Anderson said earlier that the utility was aiming to restore power to all customers by 5 p.m.

No one was harmed in the fire and there was limited damage to the electrical facilities, according to PG&E spokesman Donald Cutler.

No injuries were reported as a result of the power outage.

PG&E workers stand outside of an electric substation where a fire occurred and might have caused the outage.
PG&E workers stand outside of an electric substation where a fire occurred and might have caused the outage. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PG&E is working to upgrade the midcentury substation by 2018, said Anderson. On Dec. 11, 2014, the entire Larkin substation lost power due to cable and equipment failures leading to outages for about 80,000 customers, according to a PG&E report.

The California Public Utilities Commission has confirmed it is investigating the outage.

A pedestrian looks at a sign posted on the door of a hardware store.
A pedestrian looks at a sign posted on the door of a hardware store. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Hospitals, Schools and Transit Affected by Outage
As of 11:30 a.m. California Pacific Medical Center’s two San Francisco campuses and St. Francis Hospital remained open and were operating off backup generators. Any new patients were being rerouted to other operational hospitals in the city. CPMC also canceled all elective surgeries.

Several hospitals had surgeries as the power failed. However, backup generators allowed them to smoothly continue the operations, said Thomas Chin, the director of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management.

At 11:40 a.m. BART and Muni resumed service at Montgomery Station after having kept the station closed for several hours.

SFBART on Twitter

beep beep!* We are back open at Montgomery station! Normal service has resumed through DTSF. Thank you for your patience.

A BART spokeswoman said the agency decided to close its station because there was not enough light in the area.

The outage also shut down Muni’s cable car lines, and they were replaced by shuttles.

A Cable Car sits idle during a citywide power outage.
A cable car sits idle during a citywide power outage. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“It’s a little scary because it sounds like it’s pretty widespread,” said Jane Bloom of San Carlos, who was delayed by the power outage while traveling on BART. “It’s crazy out there because of the cars. Nobody’s stopping at the lights. But everyone around seems to be OK. People seem to be calm.”

A worker sells donuts in the dark.
A worker sells doughnuts in the dark. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The San Francisco Unified School District said 21 schools were affected, though all remained open. Statewide tests at several of the schools were interrupted, and will need to be rescheduled. Families would be notified if something changed at their child’s school, said SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

Schools affected by the outage included: Civic Center, Alamo, Cobb, Galileo, Marina, George Peabody, Presidio, Redding, Rosa Parks, Spring Valley, Sutro, Tenderloin, Wallenberg, Sherman, Francisco, Claire Lilienthal, S.F. Montessori and Tule Elk.

Many traffic lights were impacted, and some local businesses closed.

A streetlight stands dark.
A streetlight stands dark. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This map shows areas that were affected by the power outage. The San Francisco Police Department also tweeted the map to show residents.


M Kobler on Twitter

@SFBART Montgomery station down b/c of power outage – traffic lights and pedestrian signals also out for many city blocks.

Pier Market Seafood on Twitter

We’re hit with the #sanfrancisco #poweroutage here at #pier39. We hope to be back up and running We’ll let you know

Dylan Gale on Twitter

SF #PowerOutage totally surreal

The Associated Press and Mariana Urban contributed to this report.

Power Finally Restored After Huge Outage in San Francisco 21 April,2017Ted Goldberg

Author

Ted Goldberg

Ted Goldberg is the morning editor for KQED News. His beat areas include San Francisco politics, the city's fire department and the Bay Area's refineries.

Prior to joining KQED in 2014, Ted worked at CBS News and WCBS AM in New York and Bay City News and KCBS Radio in San Francisco. He graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1998.

You can follow him at @TedrickG and reach him on email at tgoldberg@kqed.org

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Olivia Allen-Price

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Miranda Leitsinger has worked in journalism as a reporter and editor since 2000, including seven years at The Associated Press in locales such as Cambodia and Puerto Rico, four years at NBC News Digital in New York and 2.5 years at CNN.com International in Hong Kong. Major stories she has covered included the aftermath of the 2004 and 2011 tsunamis, the initial military hearings at Guantanamo, the Aurora movie theater attack, the Newtown school shooting, Superstorm Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing. Reach her at mleitsinger@kqed.org or https://www.facebook.com/mirandasleitsinger/

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