Downed lines cause surge, outage in East Palo Alto

August 26, 2011 7:06:50 PM PDT
Downed power lines in East Palo Alto knocked out power and triggered an electrical surge that caused damage to meters and even home appliances. The surge and outage affected homes and businesses around Glen Way and East Bayshore Road.

PG&E says it was a highly unusual situation in which tree limbs fell across power lines about 10 p.m. Thursday. The resulting power surge damaged appliances inside homes, and even though service was restored 12 hours later, even more work had to be done.

PG&E crews have been going door to door, replacing electrical meters that were damaged by the powerful surge.

Residents were startled as four kilovolts of electricity coursed through overhead lines.

"It was a bright flash and all these lights went brighter than they usually be," Taualai Uasike said.

TV sets and computers were damaged before anyone could react fast enough to unplug them.

Stanley Parker was watching TV at the time.

"It was just smoking, too much feed in the TV and then all the fuse boxes, everywhere was going out," Parker said. "So it was just overloaded, all the amps in the house, all the lights in the house were light, everything was like spotlights in our house."

PG&E says tree limbs fell across distribution lines, creating a surge.

As ABC7 checked houses where power was still out, it appears the meters took the hit because circuit breakers didn't even trip.

PG&E is providing residents with claim forms to recover damage to appliances and perishable food. However, PG&E has not determined who is at fault.

A surge can cause widespread damage.

"What they can do is actually overload the meter, you're getting more electricity than would normally go into a home and what they can do is cause damage to appliances and also overload a meter, especially if your circuit breakers aren't up to, you know, modern specs," PG&E spokesperson Joe Molica said.

The Ravenswood City School District lost its phones and Internet connection for 10 school sites and its administrative headquarters.

How much is 4 kilovolts? It's 4,000 volts -- way more power to kill or burn a human being.


Load Comments