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Chronic PG&E power outages spoil Thanksgiving for Mountain View residents

PG&E utilities in one Mountain View neighborhood have been mired in problems, leading to a Thanksgiving outage. Voice file photo.

A lengthy two-day power outage dashed Thanksgiving plans for residents living along Yorkton Drive in Mountain View last week, prompting calls for a permanent fix to ongoing electricity problems that PG&E has yet to address.

The outage was the second this month, and the last straw for residents fed up with chronic utility problems. Susan Tighe, who lives on the street, said she was ready to host Thanksgiving at her house this year and had carefully planned for a family dinner after staying apart due to COVID-19 last year. She bought the turkey, prepared decorations for the table and ensured that her kids were vaccinated beforehand.

But then came the warning signs. On Thursday morning, the lights began flickering inside homes along Yorkton -- a signal that residents have about 30 minutes of lingering power before a full outage. Tighe said she rushed home to get cars out of the garage and had to come up with a contingency plan, ultimately spending the holiday at her mom's house in San Mateo.

It took until Saturday morning for the power to finally come back, making it the second lengthy outage for the street this month. Hundreds of dollars worth of food has spoiled, Tighe said, and her family has been forced to light rooms with lanterns and take cold showers. She emphasized that the outages are not just a minor inconvenience.

"I think when you tell people that your power went out it goes in one ear and out the other," Tighe said. "When it goes out for 48 hours, you lose all the contents in your fridge. We lost everything in our deep freezer at least once."

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The problem is isolated to a small part of the Waverly Park neighborhood. PG&E Spokeswoman Mayra Tostado confirmed that 73 customers had lost power at 10:41 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day due to an underground equipment failure -- specifically an electric cable that had failed. She said crews were immediately sent to fix the problem, but it took until 4:36 p.m. that day to get power restored to only some of the houses. All told, 21 houses remained without power until 3:07 a.m. on Saturday.

"We understand how disruptive it is to be without power and apologize to our customers who have experienced frequent or long-duration outages," Tostado said.

Though affecting a small area, the problems have been chronic and frustrating for residents who say they're already preparing for the next power outage to hit and ruin the holiday season next month. Tighe said her top picks for Christmas presents are a generator and a battery backup for her garage door opener.

Houses on Yorkton Drive, near Cooper Park, have been hit hardest by recent power outages. Nearby homes along Levin Avenue have also been affected.

Jeff Treuhaft, who also lives on Yorkton Drive, said he got the alert from PG&E on Thursday morning last week and knew immediately that his family was in for a tough day. They had two refrigerators full of food and lots of dishes to prepare, but were hardly expecting the power to swiftly return in time to salvage Thanksgiving. They had just gone through a multiday outage earlier in the month, and ended up eating at a relative's house instead.

"It made what should be a close-knit family connecting time into 'How are we going to get food in our fridge cleared out?'" Treuhaft said. "The whole thing was a mess."

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Looking into the problem, Treuhaft said it appears PG&E is making Band-Aid fixes on aging utility lines that are long overdue for a replacement. The neighborhood is supported by power lines that are buried underground, unprotected by a conduit and covered in plastic sheathing that was manufactured in the 1960s. Treuhaft said he believes that plastic is cracking and letting moisture in, causing the cables to short and kill power for the street.

What follows, he said, is the same arduous process: PG&E crews come out, they spend hours trying to pinpoint the problem, then they spend even more time excavating the sidewalk or the street to locate and repair the cable. But rather than replacing the full length of the cable and future-proofing the utility line, they're just fixing small two or three-foot sections at a time, Treuhaft said, and it's that patchwork approach that is so frustrating. Neighbors walking by the street are always surprised to see a PG&E truck parked, yet again, to do the exact same job on a new length of faulty power lines.

"I feel really let down," he said, "I've been a customer for 25 years and paid my bills every month on time and they've never had an issue with me. This keeps happening, and what's most frustrating is when the blue truck shows up on our street it's like we're starting over from scratch every time."

Residents can submit a claim for losses, including spoiled food, in order to be reimbursed by PG&E, but those affected by the outages say they haven't had much luck. After one of the outages, Tighe said she spent hours meticulously putting together itemized price lists for what she purchased and pictures of the spoiled food, which totaled $500, but was only offered $100 in compensation. She elevated it to a supervisor and was able to negotiate for more, but it still covered less than half the cost of the food, she said.

PG&E officials say that a more permanent solution is on the way. Tostado said the public utility company is currently working to obtain permits from the city to replace the underground cables that serve Yorkton Drive and surrounding streets, but that more details are not yet available. She said more information will be available in December and will be mailed to affected customers.

"We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to upgrading equipment in the area as soon as possible to improve reliability," she said.

City officials confirmed that PG&E is making progress, and has worked with the city to obtain permits to replace electrical lines in a number of streets around Cooper Park including Yorkton. The first permit was issued on Nov. 30, and the city is expediting future permits "due to the seriousness of the issue," according to city spokeswoman Lenka Wright.

Treuhaft said the information released by PG&E is still underwhelming, and that he wishes the company was more transparent about its plans. It's still unclear what specific work is being planned and what could be holding up the permitting process, meanwhile he and his neighbors feel like they are just waiting blind for the next power outage to hit.

"It's crazy that I live halfway between Apple's headquarters and Google's headquarters, in 2021, and I still can't get stable power," he said.

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Chronic PG&E power outages spoil Thanksgiving for Mountain View residents

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 30, 2021, 1:31 pm

A lengthy two-day power outage dashed Thanksgiving plans for residents living along Yorkton Drive in Mountain View last week, prompting calls for a permanent fix to ongoing electricity problems that PG&E has yet to address.

The outage was the second this month, and the last straw for residents fed up with chronic utility problems. Susan Tighe, who lives on the street, said she was ready to host Thanksgiving at her house this year and had carefully planned for a family dinner after staying apart due to COVID-19 last year. She bought the turkey, prepared decorations for the table and ensured that her kids were vaccinated beforehand.

But then came the warning signs. On Thursday morning, the lights began flickering inside homes along Yorkton -- a signal that residents have about 30 minutes of lingering power before a full outage. Tighe said she rushed home to get cars out of the garage and had to come up with a contingency plan, ultimately spending the holiday at her mom's house in San Mateo.

It took until Saturday morning for the power to finally come back, making it the second lengthy outage for the street this month. Hundreds of dollars worth of food has spoiled, Tighe said, and her family has been forced to light rooms with lanterns and take cold showers. She emphasized that the outages are not just a minor inconvenience.

"I think when you tell people that your power went out it goes in one ear and out the other," Tighe said. "When it goes out for 48 hours, you lose all the contents in your fridge. We lost everything in our deep freezer at least once."

The problem is isolated to a small part of the Waverly Park neighborhood. PG&E Spokeswoman Mayra Tostado confirmed that 73 customers had lost power at 10:41 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day due to an underground equipment failure -- specifically an electric cable that had failed. She said crews were immediately sent to fix the problem, but it took until 4:36 p.m. that day to get power restored to only some of the houses. All told, 21 houses remained without power until 3:07 a.m. on Saturday.

"We understand how disruptive it is to be without power and apologize to our customers who have experienced frequent or long-duration outages," Tostado said.

Though affecting a small area, the problems have been chronic and frustrating for residents who say they're already preparing for the next power outage to hit and ruin the holiday season next month. Tighe said her top picks for Christmas presents are a generator and a battery backup for her garage door opener.

Jeff Treuhaft, who also lives on Yorkton Drive, said he got the alert from PG&E on Thursday morning last week and knew immediately that his family was in for a tough day. They had two refrigerators full of food and lots of dishes to prepare, but were hardly expecting the power to swiftly return in time to salvage Thanksgiving. They had just gone through a multiday outage earlier in the month, and ended up eating at a relative's house instead.

"It made what should be a close-knit family connecting time into 'How are we going to get food in our fridge cleared out?'" Treuhaft said. "The whole thing was a mess."

Looking into the problem, Treuhaft said it appears PG&E is making Band-Aid fixes on aging utility lines that are long overdue for a replacement. The neighborhood is supported by power lines that are buried underground, unprotected by a conduit and covered in plastic sheathing that was manufactured in the 1960s. Treuhaft said he believes that plastic is cracking and letting moisture in, causing the cables to short and kill power for the street.

What follows, he said, is the same arduous process: PG&E crews come out, they spend hours trying to pinpoint the problem, then they spend even more time excavating the sidewalk or the street to locate and repair the cable. But rather than replacing the full length of the cable and future-proofing the utility line, they're just fixing small two or three-foot sections at a time, Treuhaft said, and it's that patchwork approach that is so frustrating. Neighbors walking by the street are always surprised to see a PG&E truck parked, yet again, to do the exact same job on a new length of faulty power lines.

"I feel really let down," he said, "I've been a customer for 25 years and paid my bills every month on time and they've never had an issue with me. This keeps happening, and what's most frustrating is when the blue truck shows up on our street it's like we're starting over from scratch every time."

Residents can submit a claim for losses, including spoiled food, in order to be reimbursed by PG&E, but those affected by the outages say they haven't had much luck. After one of the outages, Tighe said she spent hours meticulously putting together itemized price lists for what she purchased and pictures of the spoiled food, which totaled $500, but was only offered $100 in compensation. She elevated it to a supervisor and was able to negotiate for more, but it still covered less than half the cost of the food, she said.

PG&E officials say that a more permanent solution is on the way. Tostado said the public utility company is currently working to obtain permits from the city to replace the underground cables that serve Yorkton Drive and surrounding streets, but that more details are not yet available. She said more information will be available in December and will be mailed to affected customers.

"We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to upgrading equipment in the area as soon as possible to improve reliability," she said.

City officials confirmed that PG&E is making progress, and has worked with the city to obtain permits to replace electrical lines in a number of streets around Cooper Park including Yorkton. The first permit was issued on Nov. 30, and the city is expediting future permits "due to the seriousness of the issue," according to city spokeswoman Lenka Wright.

Treuhaft said the information released by PG&E is still underwhelming, and that he wishes the company was more transparent about its plans. It's still unclear what specific work is being planned and what could be holding up the permitting process, meanwhile he and his neighbors feel like they are just waiting blind for the next power outage to hit.

"It's crazy that I live halfway between Apple's headquarters and Google's headquarters, in 2021, and I still can't get stable power," he said.

Comments

Johnny Yuma
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Nov 30, 2021 at 2:22 pm
Johnny Yuma, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2021 at 2:22 pm

If I didn’t know better, I would think it was a Comcast/Infinity outage…

I can’t count the number of times I have sent messages to Governor Newsom, begging him to break up PG&E. It is long overdue.


quiet_resident
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Dec 1, 2021 at 3:51 pm
quiet_resident, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Dec 1, 2021 at 3:51 pm

We walk this neighborhood frequently and a see the inept solutions PG&E keeps throwing at the problem. Every time (and it's happened more than the two times mentioned in this story) the power goes out, sidewalks and roads are ripped up, the line is patched and then it's all put back together. Multiple large trucks and different work crews are pulled in from Arizona and other places that PG&E pulls subcontractors from. It always happens during the most inconvenient evening or early morning and weekend times, probably costing hundreds of thousands of dollars each time (probably much, much more). The crew during this last outage said that the line going down the street is deteriorated and that the problem will continue to happen - not just here but likely for the broader neighborhood with buried lines that are aged like these. Why aren't we requiring that buried lines get put into pipes so that they can be pulled out and replaced more easily - or using sidewalk material that can be reused like pavers if the line gets damaged? Had PG&E done this on the section of the street they keep ripping up - they would have at least saved on the cost of digging and patching up the street again. Maybe Mountain View can start to look at ways we can have a more sustainable public hardscape to avoid waste? A more permanent and lasting fix is needed for these residents.


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