Mountain View resident Tim Slattery was at home on Tuesday, March 14, when he heard a big crack that sounded like a large branch breaking.
Slattery ran out of his house in the Monta Loma neighborhood to see what was going on, and was relieved to find that the noise wasn’t one of his pine trees falling on his car. He could hear a buzzing noise coming from above, and realized the sound had come from the electrical lines near a power transformer that’s visible from Slattery’s driveway.
“Just as I looked over, there was a big, bright flash,” he said. “You could feel the impact. Then the power went off, obviously.”
The power transformer had exploded, said Slattery, who serves as the incident commander for the Monta Loma neighborhood’s community emergency response team.
Thousands of Mountain View PG&E customers lost power due to the windy and rainy conditions during the Tuesday, March 14 storm, with most getting their power restored by Thursday morning. But for the unlucky 50 or so homes in the Monta Loma neighborhood nearby where the transformer exploded, the lights were off for five full days.
When the power first went out, Slattery said he and his neighbors waited hopefully for PG&E to give an estimated time of power restoration on its outage map. A couple hours later, the utility company said power would be restored by Friday night.
Slattery said he tried calling PG&E, but couldn’t get a human on the line. One of his neighbors spent hours on the phone trying to reach the utility company, and when they finally did, Slattery said PG&E reassured them the power would be back no later than Friday. But as Friday came and went, the estimate changed to Saturday.
“I don’t think you can blame them for things that go out for a day or so,” Slattery said. “But when it goes on that long, and they are telling you, ‘It’s going to get fixed, it’s going to get fixed,’ it gets pretty frustrating.”
PG&E did not respond to the Voice's requests for comment on the prolonged outage.
On Saturday, PG&E crews finally came to work on the problem, but the fix got delayed again when the crews didn’t bring the right equipment, Slattery said. One of his neighbors saw the crew show up and went over to see what was going on and how long the fix might take.
“And apparently they took one look and said, ‘Oh, we need a transformer and we don’t have it,’” Slattery said. “I’m sure their crews were busy, I don’t blame the field crews. I really just wish that communication had been better.”
On Sunday, crews came back with the equipment they needed to fix the transformer. The power came back around 6 p.m., Slattery said, nearly two days after PG&E originally predicted.
Slattery said many of his neighbors lost all the food in their refrigerators due to the outage. He personally purchased dry ice to keep his food from spoiling, which he said was expensive. And because most of the homes on the affected streets are Eichlers — a mid-century modern architectural style that features a flat roof and many large windows — Slattery said he and his neighbors were very cold due to poor insulation.
“The heat may be gas, but the pumps that circulate the hot water are all electric,” he said. “So no one was able to heat their houses.”
Mountain View officials told the Voice that the city understands that PG&E was facing a challenging situation last week, given the numerous power outages and many downed trees.
“We acknowledge that PG&E is working on having timely and accurate communication with ratepayers across their service areas, and the City will continue to advocate for our residents and businesses that count on PG&E for reliable power in Mountain View,” an emailed statement said.
Officials said the city was in frequent contact with PG&E about the status of restoring power, especially for those customers who lost power for multiple days.
“The City was very concerned for residents who experienced prolonged power outages and responded by providing resources to them, including enhanced access to City facilities where they could charge their electronic devices and have Wi-Fi connectivity,” the statement said.
Slattery said he and his neighbors hope that PG&E will work to improve their communication with customers, and make sure that the information being provided is accurate.
“The worst part of the whole thing was, I think almost every day, I got a text (that said), ‘Crews are onsite and working on the problem,’” Slattery said. “And yet, all I have to do is walk out my door and see that there’s nobody there.”
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2023 at 8:02 pm
on Mar 21, 2023 at 8:02 pm
PG&E typically takes about 20 minutes longer than Comcast to text me that the power is out.