PG&E still mum about cause of Berkeley power outage

Image: PG&E
Image: PG&E

More than 48 hours after a sweeping power outage left 38,000 PG&E customers in Berkeley and surrounding cities without electricity, the company still has not released the cause of the problem.

“The cause is still being investigated at this time,” PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian said by email Thursday shortly before 1 p.m. “I don’t think we’ll have more details than that for today.”

Sarkissian said Wednesday she hoped to have an answer by Thursday about what led to Tuesday’s outage, adding that she had been unable to reach the person who would know what triggered it. She did not provide a reason Thursday about the reason for the delay.

Power went out throughout much of the city at about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, knocking out traffic signals, and resulting in a BART station shutdown in Berkeley. According to one report on Twitter, someone got stuck in the elevator at Berkeley City Hall during the outage, and had to be rescued by Berkeley firefighters. One Berkeleyside reader said a cyclist was struck by a car at a North Berkeley intersection that had lost power; Berkeley police have been unavailable to provide any information about that incident.


Power was restored by about 3 p.m. Tuesday. According to a cryptic note posted on PG&E’s outage map, the cause of the outage was “Planned maintenance in the area.”

Sarkissian said Tuesday afternoon that the outage had originated at a substation in Berkeley, but could not provide any additional information about it.

“The reference to ‘planned maintenance’ was preliminary information that was posted on the outage map,” she said Thursday by email. “Again, we are still investigating and will share more information as we receive it.”

She said 29,000 PG&E customers in Berkeley lost power, with the rest in nearby cities.

Said Siciliana Trevino shortly after 3 p.m.: "Power out all over #Berkeley BART is still running - take a free ride from downtown!" The station is closed as of about 2:40 p.m.
Said Siciliana Trevino shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday: “Power out all over #Berkeley BART is still running – take a free ride from downtown!” The station was closed as of about 2:40 p.m.

One reader wrote Berkeleyside this week wondering how many individuals may actually have been affected by the outage, given that multiple people — e.g. a family, a local business or local schools — may be counted as a single PG&E customer.


Sarkissian said by email Thursday that there’s no way to get a more precise number: “The 29k Berkeley customers refers to accounts – households or businesses. We can’t quantify how many individuals that includes.”

Berkeleyside will update this story when more information is provided.

Read more about Berkeley power outages in past Berkeleyside coverage. And stay tuned to Berkeleyside’s Facebook and Twitter pages for breaking news updates.

Related:
PG&E: 29,000 lost power Tuesday in Berkeley (01.20.15)
Winds may reach 55 mph in Berkeley this week (12.30.14)
Update: PG&E outage in North Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, San Pablo caused by fire (09.18.14)
Brief power outages interrupt downtown Berkeley (07.15.14)
Breaking: Berkeley, Oakland hit by power outage (02.26.14)

Do you rely on Berkeleyside for your local news? You can support independent local journalism by becoming a Berkeleyside member. You can choose either a monthly payment or a one-time donation.