Sun, Apr 23, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Power outage hits San Francisco


A massive power outage threw San Francisco into chaos for most of the work day on Friday, knocking out traffic signals, paralyzing businesses and halting the city’s famed cable cars.

The power outage, which was triggered by a fire in a PG&E Corp utility substation, disrupted they city’s normally bustling financial district, home to banks and technology companies.

The blackout started just after 9am and at one point affected nearly 90,000 customers, PG&E said.

The cause of the fire was a circuit breaker failure at the substation, PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty said.

Office workers unable to access elevators or use their keycards spilled out onto the sidewalks, some wandering the streets in search of an open cafe or sunny spot to enjoy a rare warm San Francisco day.

Others simply went home, with long lines forming for ferries. Some cable car operators snoozed after their cars stalled on the street rails.

Traffic was snarled and emergency workers responded to 20 elevator rescues, according to the city’s fire department, but there were no reported deaths or major injuries.

However, many businesses — from coffee shops to major banks — took a hit.

Wells Fargo & Co closed 13 bank branches and four office buildings, while the New York Stock Exchange said its Arca Options trading floor in San Francisco was briefly unavailable. Employees in Goldman Sachs’ financial district office were sent home.

Baker Avenue Asset Management chief investment officer King Lip said his firm was in the middle of a trade when “all our systems went down” and employees in another state had to complete the transaction.

Fourteen neighborhoods were affected, including the main shopping district near Union Square, where stores turned signs to “closed” and major retailers such as Macy’s and Louis Vuitton shut their doors.

In a city proud of its technological prowess, the outage forced residents back to the dark ages. At the salad bar MIXT, cashiers took credit card payments using old-fashioned paper imprints.

For more than two hours, trains barreled through the Montgomery Street station — one of the busiest stops that services the downtown and financial district — as the outage prevented them from stopping until backup generators came online, Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesman Jim Allison said.

Power was finally restored to all customers by 6pm local time, PG&E said.

San Francisco International Airport remained operational, and a US Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said there was no evidence of terrorism.

“This had nothing to do with cyber,” said Joe Weiss, an expert on control-system cybersecurity who has testified to Congress about structural weaknesses in grid components. “The real question is how could one substation take out, effectively, San Francisco?”

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