Storm in Bay Area knocks out power, closes schools

January 19, 2010 7:45:54 PM PST
PG&E crews' all-out efforts to restore power to storm-damaged power lines, poles and transformers is fast approaching 100 percent. However, a few small areas, such as a pocket of Hillsborough and an adjacent neighborhood in Burlingame, are still without power after eight hours.

At one point on Tuesday morning, 8,800 people were without power on the Peninsula, including portions of the Stanford campus. PG&E knew the storm was coming, so it had crews standing by.

PG&E crews found themselves going from one trouble spot to the next. Lightning struck and damaged two power poles behind homes on East Laurel Creek Drive in San Mateo.

"There was a lightning strike. We're going to set a new pole with a crane, as you can see, tie them together, make them safe. And we'll move on to the next outage," PG&E foreman Bill Maher said.

Anna Stirlacci lives only a few yards from the poles.

"They said the cables were smoking but there wasn't a fire. Nothing had happened yet, so I left for school, and I came back, and all the PG&E people showed up, and they said the pole had caught on fire," she said.

High winds were the main cause for power outages, toppling trees that snagged power lines.

Residents of a neighborhood straddling Hillsborough and Burlingame didn't have power eight hours after losing it at 5:30 a.m.

Two Peninsula colleges, the College of San Mateo and Cañada College, had to cancel classes due to the outage. They used technology to get the word out.

"The key is the emergency text messaging system. The students are signed up, we send them text messages. We also are updating our website. We also have a Facebook page, and I think we're also Twittering students as well," College of San Mateo President Mike Claire said.

Stanford was luckier. Only its National Accelerator Facility "SLAC" had a prolonged power outage.

While it started out as a rough morning for commuters, the sun was shining by midday. Some people considered themselves fortunate.

"Earlier today, it was a downpour. It was really gushing down. And then, look at it now, the sun's out. It reminds me of England -- four seasons in one day," Jeff Silverman said.

Others are bracing themselves for the next storm.

"We have sandbags. We have a pump in our basement," Barbara Irli said.

PG&E says to expect more power outages on Wednesday morning associated with the next storm.

If you notice a downed power line call 911. Otherwise, outages can be reported to (800) 743-5002.