[conspire] Power outage, last night and this morning

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Jan 21 02:20:58 PST 2010

Quoting Paul Zander (paulz at ieee.org):

[Snip anecdote about PG&E inaccessibility in an emergency, and a
workaround via the local police department, who were able to call an
unlisted number and get prompt action.]

Heh.  Thanks very much for that.  That's indeed worth remembering, when
such things come up.

For our household, I keep a list of emergency contact numbers for
various utilities plus California Poison Control Center, etc. here:

Since, obviously, in an emergency it may be impossible or inadvisable to
consult my Web site, a printout of that page is also tacked to my
refrigerator, plus I have a bunch of those numbers in my PDA.

That came in handy on Monday, Dec. 28th.  Very early in the morning (by
my standards), around 7:30 AM, I woke up to my doorbell ringing.  I
toddled to the door in my shorts and t-shirt, and it was one of the
people we know from the neighbourhood, who walks a dog down our street
and chats with us.

She said, "There's a flood of water coming down from your yard near your
vegetable garden, into the street."  I replied, "Could be just runoff,
from the rains.  We're at the base of a saddlepoint in the hills, so
rainwater naturally flows out that way."  She said, "I don't think this
is runoff."

She looked pretty serious, so I walked barefoot out to the sidewalk,
down near the oleander hedge:  There was, no kidding, a veritable small
river flowing over the sidewalk and down the street towards Avy Ave.

I followed upstream into my back yard, and spotted the source:
(Picture taken with crummy cell-phone camera.)

That might not look like much of a fountain, but that's because it's
spewing water in all directions, not just up.  Trust me, it really was
pretty impressive.

I thanked my neighbour, went indoors, and telephoned the emergency
contact number on my Web page for California Water Service, the local
water company.

The guy who handled the call got our street address and cross-street,
and asked "Can you stick around for a while?"  "I'm going to have to
leave in about an hour."  "I'll be there in ten minutes."  And he was.

It was a broken 50-year-old water main, which it took them some hours to
get to and fix.  I counted five California Water Service trucks on
Altschul and Gordon, when I had to leave for the day.  But I'm very
happy with their responsiveness.  Oddly, the guy said my breakage was
the fourth one they were simultaneously needing to respond to.  It made
me wonder what common cause might have underlay all four:  Perhaps they
inadvertently overpressured the system?

Anyhow, just to re-stress what I was saying in my earlier posting:  In
the event of outage, take with a _big_ grain of salt anything you see on
the online PG&E "Outage Map" pages.  My experience is that they're
inaccurate and pretty useless.  Suspect it's all about placating
customers rather than informing them.

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