[conspire] Power outage, last night and this morning

Paul Zander paulz at ieee.org
Wed Jan 20 20:11:07 PST 2010

I looked at the PG&E website.  All of the flags have similar text.  "1 to 49 customers", "50 to 499 customers", etc.

Some years ago I experienced an unusual outage.  It had been windy and raining for hours.  Suddenly there was a boom and the lights went out.  A few seconds later, the lights came back on.  Then there was a second boom, a very blue bright flash outside, and darkness.  A minute later the lights again went on and off accompanied by a boom and bright flash.  

The rain had almost stopped, I went outside.  With my flashlight I could see a small branch that had blown off tree and lodged into the power lines.  The PG&E system had apparently tried to reset itself, but couldn't power the tree branch.

I tried calling PG&E to tell them where the problem was.  It isn't easy to hold a flashlight in one hand, the phone book in the other, and still dial.

Well all I could get was a busy signal.  Meanwhile PG&E's equipment unsuccessfully tried to reset again with another flash bang.  I knew exactly where the problem was but PG&E was not willing to take my call and advise.

I called the operator and explained that I needed help calling PG&E because I couldn't read the phone book and dial while holding a flashlight.  As she looked up the number I explained that I knew where the problem was.  Well all she could get was a busy signal.

Then she had an idea.  (As I said, this was some years ago when operators were local.  Today I don't know if the phone
company has local operators or they just connect you to Bangalore.)  She suggested calling the local police department, and connect me through.

The police dispatcher took the information.  She had an unlisted number that PG&E answers.  Withing minutes a truck came down the street with a searchlight pointing up at the wires.  The truck stopped under the branch.  The driver got out, got a telescoping fiberglass pole from the back of the truck, and dislodged the branch.  He had been passed the info from the police department.  He and all our neighbors were very happy.  Without the phone call, he figured he would have been searching for hours.

So the lessons are:

Always have a phone that does not require PG&E power.If it is really important, call the local police / fire department for PG&E emergencies.

--- On Tue, 1/19/10, Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:

From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
Subject: [conspire] Power outage, last night and this morning
To: conspire at linuxmafia.com
Date: Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 1:55 PM

In the middle of the night, last night (maybe 3 AM), power to my house
went out, which among other things took my server offline.  Power came
back on at just past noon, so we apparently had power out for about 8-10

PG&E has Web pages where you can allegedly look up status of current power
outages (http://www.pge.com/myhome/customerservice/energystatus/outagemap/).

Here's what they had to say about Menlo Park at 11:45 AM today:

> Menlo Park:
> 5 outage(s) affecting 1 to 49 customer(s)
> Cause: Unknown
> Status: Awaiting assessment
> Start Time of Outage: 01/19/2010 11:23:00 AM
> Est. Time of Restoration: Not Available
> Last Updated: 01/19/2010 11:23:40 AM

I count exactly one correct and useful datum, there:  the timestamp.
All the other data are either wrong or useless.  Yay, PG&E!

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