Power OUT In San Francisco

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Spikes! They're having an unexpected preview of Y2K this morning in San Francisco. Notice this report shows how many troubles immediately cropped up, and many things are effected, and how emergency crews are busy.

Diane, are you communicable now, can you tell us more? First-hand accounts, as to ppl's reactions & emotions in SanFran, would be appreciated. Thanks!


San Francisco Hit With Power Outage

Buses, trolleys, trains, elevators stopped during commute

MSNBC STAFF AND WIRE REPORTSSAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 8  Much of San Francisco had shut down Tuesday morning, when power went out during the peak commute hour. Traffic lights stopped blinking, elevators stopped moving and trains, buses and trolleys stopped running.

REPORTS OF power outages came in from as far away as Stonestown on the Pacific Ocean and the financial district along San Francisco Bay. The outage halted trading at the Pacific Stock Exchange.

A spokesman at the San Francisco mayors office told MSNBC that, an hour after the first outage, police and firefighters were still working on evacuating people trapped in elevators and tunnels.

All of the traffic lights in downtown San Francisco were out, callers told KGO Radio, which also had reports of outages across the Bay in San Ramon.

At The Associated Press office, there appeared to be a power surge shortly after 8 a.m., then the power went out completely.

Calls made from Los Angeles to transportation services, utilities and home phones went unanswered. And attempts to reach live, local news Web sites were not successful.

The power surge was experienced as far north as Napa and across the bay in Hayward, dimming lights, making TVs goes fuzzy and knocking computers off line. But power is back up in those places, according to callers to KGO.

In San Francisco, though, electricity remained out, crippling the transportation system, which relies on overhead power lines. City buses and trolley cars were stalled in the streets.

xxxxxxx xx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 08, 1998


Perhaps somebody in this Asylum knows how to ascertain if/when the power comes back on in SanFran? Curious to see how this "experiment" plays out with the citizens there. How many hours did it last, and what was the extent of the blackout? Does this make more people in San Francisco "get it" as to the very real possibility of disruptions in 2000? Want to hear the stories. Unfortunately don't have access to cable TV at the moment. Thanks!

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 08, 1998.

Got a good spike when it happened, but didn't knock out my computer. I'm further down the peninsula, so we still have power.

Leska, it's Divine, that's what. I have a local investigative reporter starting to get interested in PG&E's year 2000 SEC 10-Q report. Guess this will "intensify" that interest. Chuckles!


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 08, 1998.

Equally, perhaps more important, is how the people react - first hours (rescues, cooperation, confusion, adjustment are mentioned.) Seconds hours? Third?

What would be different if were first day? Second day? Third day?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), December 08, 1998.

Wonder if this material is relevant?

ELF Group -- logs and analyses

Wasn't there a mag. 4.5 earthquake in S.F. Bay reported this weekend?

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), December 08, 1998.

Keep up with the upper Silicon Valley Bay Area:

Local web-site for San Francisco Chronicle/KRON 4 TV/San Francisco Examiner http://www.sfgate.com/ Top of web-site only says Massive Power Outage hits Bay Area with no hot stories yet.

San Francisco Chronicle -- News (not updated to the breaking news level: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article-list.cgi?key=MN&directory=/ chronicle/archive/1998/12/08

San Francisco Examiner -- Breaking News: http://www.sfgate.com:8001/cgi-bin/fish_demo/lastedition Bay Area News Bay Area news from the Associated Press U.S. News From the Associated Press World News From the Associated Press Business Business news and features from the Chronicle ... Examiner ... and Associated Press Internet From the Chronicle ... Examiner ... and Associated Press

Television stations ARE on in South Bay and reporting breaking news, web-sites down.

KRON TV Channel 4 (NBC): http://www.kron.com -- no response, server down.

KPIX TV Channel 5 (CBS): http://www.kpix.com -- no response, server down.

Channel 7 (ABC) http://www.abcnews.com/local/ -- go to affilliate. Cant find S.F. website reference.

KQED TV Channel 9 (PBS) http://www.kqed.com -- no response, server down.

South Bay, Silicon Valley San Jose Mercury News -- Breaking News: http://www.mercurycenter.com/breaking/

Last updated at 10:16 a.m. PST Tuesday, December 8, 1998 http://www.mercurycenter.com/breaking/docs/059553.htm

PG&E starting to restore power to San Francisco SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A citywide blackout that cut off power to over 372,000 customers today brought trains, planes and cars to a halt, left pedestrians scrambling and forced stores, schools and the stock exchange to close.

Power went out just after 8 a.m. as a problem at one facility set off a chain reaction.

John Tremayne, a Pacific Gas & Electric spokesperson for the Central Valley, said a transmission substation in San Mateo County experienced a drop in power for unknown reasons. That caused two gas-powered electrical generation facilities to drop offline.

Electricity was beginning to be restored to the 372,000 affected customers by midmorning but the work was expected to last into the late afternoon, said PG&E spokesman Corey Warren.

The outage knocked out 17 of 57 Bay Area Rapid Transit trains in operation. Those trains were able, with limited power, to get to stations and no trains were stuck in subway tunnels, including one under the bay. BART spokesman Mike Healy said trains and stations were lighted by batteries. The line through San Francisco was affected; East Bay trains continued to run.

``I just got orders from central control to secure the coach, pull it to the side and have passengers not panic,'' trolley driver Robert Rhodes said. Some buses and trolleys run on overhead power. The city's famed cable cars also ground to a halt.

``The cable cars are not running. Everything is off,'' said Dan Johnson, a clerk at the Cable Car Museum.

Fifty highrises had stuck elevators with unknown numbers of people inside them. Firefighters worked with elevator companies to get them out, Fire Department Inspector Kaan Chin said.

The outage shut down about 200 Bank of America automatic teller machines in the area. Branches were expected to open later, but would offer only limited services until power returned, bank spokesman Richard Beebe said.

A similar early-morning blackout Oct. 23, 1997, was blamed on sabotage. That outage knocked out power to 126,000 customers -- 250,000 people -- in downtown San Francisco for 3 1/2 hours.

Investigators in the 1997 case found that switches in a substation had been tampered with. Officials suspected current or former PG&E employees because there were no signs of forced entry, and a grand jury heard testimony, but nobody was charged and the investigation continues.

PG&E spokesman Bill Roake said there was no evidence of sabatoge today.

The problem blanketed the 49 square miles of San Francisco, and there were reports of outages 20 miles south to suburban San Mateo.

Roake said 360,000 customers were without power in San Francisco and neighboring areas of the peninsula.

San Francisco police inspector Elegory Ovanessian said every major intersection in the city was being monitored by traffic or parking enforcement officers.

There were no reports of major accidents, injuries or looting.

Flights headed into San Francisco International Airport were being diverted to San Jose or Oakland, said Western Region Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mitch Barker in Seattle.

``The security checkpoints at San Francisco were shut down as well,'' Barker said of the power outage at the airport.

Backup emergency power was used for navigation, emergency and runway lighting and emergency radio and tower communications and some incoming planes were able to land, airport spokesman Ron Wilson said.

Passengers were unable to check in at the flight counters, because the airline computers were down.

``The security portals (X-ray and metal detection) were shut down, so no passengers could move into the sterile area,'' Barker said.

Airline employees were moving jetway and air-stairs by hand so passengers could get off incoming flights.

On the streets, pedestrians dodged cars and stalled public transit.

The power surge was experienced as far north as Napa and across the bay in Hayward, dimming lights, making TVs goes fuzzy and knocking computers off line. But power in most of those areas was restored within the hour, callers told KGO Radio.

At the downtown Fairmont Hotel, a secretary to the general manager said: ``We have a generator, and there is light in the hallways. Our security director is making an announcement to guests to remain calm, that everything is under control.''

Employees would not comment on whether there was any problem with elevators in the hotel.

``We're operating on emergency power,'' said Bill Griffin, rooms director at the Hyatt Fishermans' Wharf. ``All of our elevators are operating on emergency power, and we have electricity fed to our meeting rooms.''

Wow. Is this a Y2K test run or what?

Cheers, Diane, this week we get earthquakes and power outages, what next?

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 08, 1998.

Wow, Diane, you are awesome! Thank you very much for finding "the latest" so quickly. When/if you find out why it happened, be sure to post it. "Chain Reaction" definitely caught my attention. They have the resources to pull it back up now, but when it hits globally all resources will be stretched.

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 08, 1998.

Geez you guy's.!!!! You take it soo light, I would be terrified. I'm glad I'm not in California. Keep your chins up if this is prelude to the 'real thing' this is some heavy stuff.

-- consumer (private@aol.com), December 08, 1998.

11:10 a.m. S.F. Power Outage update from the local TV news stations.

All have pre-empted regular programming and are focusing on breaking stories.

KRON TV Channel 4 reporting that PG&E, spokesperson, Mary Rodriques, say they will hold a news conference at 11:30 am at S.F. headquarters. About 340,000 customers still out, 250,000 in San Francisco.

-- Two power plants went out as a result of the San Mateo, Coyote Point, substation equipment malfunction which is under investigation.

-- Power surges AFTER the brownouts, burned out many emergeny back-up systems which took KRON TV offline for longer than anticipated. Said maybe they shouldnt have switched to back generators so fast.

-- Police mobilized to help traffic, help get people out that are trapped in buildings and elevators. Major traffic snarls.

-- Phones down with busy signals.

-- Over 200 ATM machines out.

-- Some schools open, but others closing.

-- Reporters talking about far reaching implications, some mentioning Y2K.

Signing off to watch developments, back later, Diane

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 08, 1998.

I didn't like those two gas turbine generators being knocked out by feedback FROM the grid as it (the grid) failed. I had hoped those kind of generators were more stable from outside influence.

But notice - this failure happened not due to failure at a power station connected TO the grid, from from a control - related failure (trip) at a single point IN the grid.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), December 08, 1998.

Electricity is important. Stable electricity is important. Reliable, continuous electricity, with no spikes, dims, surges, brownouts, blackouts, or chain-reaction failures, is important. To keep massive amounts of electronic equipment, upon which we interconnectedly depend, running smoothing, purring without being fried, is important. Is this not a simple, basic truth?

Then how come, with Y2K inexorably marching upon us, can the Pacific Northwest's main electric power source, Bonneville, just be bought by a Scottish company which right-out announces massive job cuts in a merger take-over which will occur during 1999 and put control overseas ??? Not logical or sensible! Are they going to fire the code remediators too? The Pacific Northwest is doomed. The idiots have zero comprehension of what's coming down. Wonder how many generators will be zinged useless by power surges etc?

Today's article puts a more feely-good spin on yesterday's shocking announcement, with huge firings predicted.


ScottishPower Takeover Faces Intense Scrutiny From Regulators
2:21 AM PST Tuesday, December 8 1998

By Lauren Dodge of the Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- ScottishPower's $7.9 billion bid to buy PacifiCorp, creating one of the world's largest power suppliers, will be carefully scrutinized in the coming months for the precedent it could set as the first foreign takeover of an American utility.

Keith R. McKennon, CEO of PacifiCorp, shares a laugh with Alan Richardson, managing director of power systems for ScottishPower, at a press conference in Portland.

Officials in the seven Western states supplied by the utility say they have many unanswered questions about the proposal, which would form a company with 7 million customers and 23,500 employees.

"I need to see why it is that we ought to be turning control of a Utah basic resource -- power -- over to an entity in Scotland," said Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. "I'm having a hard time at this point seeing what the benefit will be to Utah ratepayers."

Jason Eisdorfer, a lawyer with Oregon's Citizens' Utility Board, added: "We're trying to be as fair as we can ... but we're dealing with a complete unknown."

While other foreign companies have invested in power plants in the United States, this would be the first purchase of an entire U.S. electric utility by a foreign company.

The deal, announced Monday, could take at least nine months to win the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and some state utility commissions.

One sticking point could be a federal law passed in 1935 that was designed to limit the long-distance buying of utilities by requiring that they have some kind of physical transmission connection.

The law was amended in 1992, however, to allow American utilities to buy foreign utilities. PacifiCorp, for example, owns an Australian distribution company, Powercor, which has 550,000 customers.

ScottishPower's Alan Richardson, managing director of power systems, said Monday he didn't expect a problem. "This is not going to be a complicated question for regulators."

Some analysts were less optimistic.
"There is skepticism about how likely it is that this deal will be consummated," said James Bellessa, analyst with D.A. Davidson & Co. in Great Falls Montana.

Beyond the federal approval, regulators in the states where PacifiCorp provides electricity to 1.4 million customers may want to add restrictions to ensure the reliability and affordability of power.

PacifiCorp is the third-largest utility west of the Mississippi River, operating in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Utah, California and Wyoming.

Some of PacifiCorp's 10,087 employees may lose their jobs after the merger is completed. ScottishPower said it will minimize the cuts through hiring reductions, attrition and employee retraining.

ScottishPower is Scotland's largest utility and supplies gas, water, electricity and phone services to 5 million British homes and has 14,306 employees.

Under the terms of the deal, ScottishPower will pay stock worth $25.13 per share at Friday's close for each share of PacifiCorp. ScottishPower also will assume PacifiCorp's $4.9 billion debt.

The new company will be based in Glasgow, but PacifiCorp would run ScottishPower's U.S. operations from Portland.

Both companies have tried before to strike a transatlantic deal.

ScottishPower's previous attempts -- with Florida Progress Corp., and then Cinergy -- foundered on disagreements about management. In May, PacifiCorp lost a bid to acquire Britain's Energy Group PLC.

The most surprising aspect of the takeover is that it didn't come domestically, said analyst Douglas Christopher with Crowell Weedon & Co. in Los Angeles.

"The company's current management strategy is focused and make sense for anyone that is looking to be involved in U.S. power," he said. "It's surprising that a foreign company could come in and snatch it out of U.S. hands."

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 08, 1998.

A massive power failure brought San Francisco to a darkened standstill at the height of the morning rush hour Tuesday, freezing traffic, stranding commuters in dark tunnels, knocking thousands of computers off-line and otherwise creating havoc.

The blackout, which apparently rolled to other parts of the Bay Area after a Pacific Gas & Electric plant in San Mateo shut down, began at 8:17 a.m. and still had much of the region blacked out hours later.

By 9:30 a.m., power was being restored with service returning at Hillsdale Boulevard and U.S. Highway 101 at Foster City. PG&E spokesman Corey Warren said power was returning station by station, with manual switching required to restore electricity city block by city block.

San Francisco city department heads convened within minutes of the outage at The City's emergency services headquarters at 1003A Turk St., according to Rachel O'Hara, an official in the city administrator's office.

According to PG&E spokeswoman Mary Rodrigues, the center of the problem was a PG&E substation in San Mateo. The substation takes high-voltage power from transmission lines and lowers it to a voltage that can be used by consumers. She said an unexplained problem still under investigation caused the substation to go off-line. At that point, automatic switches were triggered to isolate the area supplied with electricity by the substation.

Without the switches, power to all of Northern California could have gone out, called by the utility an "underfrequency.''

PG&E spokesman Bill Roche said it would take 2 to 5 hours to repair the substation and bring the others back on line.

An unknown number of persons were evacuated from Muni tunnels.

There apparently were no trains in the trans-Bay BART tunnel, according to a BART police spokesman

At San Francisco International Airport, one of the world's busiest airports, flight operations continued on separate power but some flights were diverted to Oakland and San Jose to ease traffic. Officials said if the blackout continued, arriving and departing flights would be delayed.

Emergency power lit the terminals but computers were down, making it impossible to check in passengers, said airport spokesman Ron Wilson. Airport personnel used bullhorns to alert travelers to flight delays.

A PG&E spokesman said more than 372,000 customers were left without service.

Traffic lights at intersections throughout The City were off and some Muni electric buses were stuck in the intersections, blocking traffic. Police and parking control officers directed traffic at others.

Mayor Brown, who was driving around The City to check on problems, urged calm. He also expressed concern about the operation of hospitals, although there were no early reports of problems as hospitals switched to auxiliary power.

Brown spokesman Ron Vinson urged people to go home. Downtown streets were crowded with displaced commuters and others.

San Francisco Police Department spokesman Sherman Ackerson said there was no looting or other problems. Police asked people not to use 911 except for real emergencies.

San Francisco General Hospital canceled elective surgeries and was operating on auxiliary power.

At Macy's on Union Square, security guard Dennis Avant said he used a crowbar to rescue people from elevators on the first and seventh floors. People were still stuck at mid-morning on some floors, he said.

At Nordstrom's at Fifth and Mission streets, Kelly Mouton and Dian Dai-Kwong, employees of the department store, were waiting outside for the store to open as scheduled at 9:20 a.m. Mouton said every register is equipped with flashlights and calculators.

The Pacific Stock Exchange closed down trading as computers failed. The exchange, the largest on the West Coast, had auxiliary power but no outside source for it.

There were reports of explosions involving PG&E substations, particularly one at 23rd and Illinois streets on Potrero Hill, but a PG&E spokesman said that when a substation drops off, it can make a loud noise because of big release of steam. One witness compared the noise to a rocket exploding. "My whole house was shaking the same as last Friday's earthquake,'' he said.

Muni passenger Janette Stevenson, a secretary who works downtown, said she was on an M-Oceanview train when it suddenly slowed to a stop between the Castro and Church stations.

"It really scared me," Stevenson said. "All of a sudden we stopped and the lights go out. Then I have to walk through that creepy tunnel? I don't think so."

Roman Ng, store manager at Walgreen's Drugstore on Market and Fourth streets, said : "When it happened we asked all customers to leave. We can't ring up anything since we're computerized.

"That's a letdown, since we're in the middle of Christmas," Ng said. He added that 30 to 40 people were in the store when the power went down and it took a few minutes to evacuate them. "It's sometimes difficult for customers to understand that we can't even open the registers. I think they're angrier than I am."

He said some customers left money and said they'll be back for change later. About $2,000 an hour would be lost, he estimated.

At the Hotel Nikko, at Mason and Taylor streets, General Manager John Hutar, said, "The guests are pretty chipper considering the situation."

He said at around 8:15 a.m., all the power flickered and the hotel switched to auxiliary power from two diesel engines on the roof, which can power basic functions for about a week, he said. The hotel was 70 percent booked and had hundreds of guests. Hutar said they immediately checked on the disabled guests and asked most of them to leave because the rooms were dark. The entire lobby has been lit with glo-sticks.

At the San Francisco Hilton Towers, Manager Prajanj Singh, said, "We're losing lots of business." People were leaving the hotel, he said. The lobby at this hotel, too, was lit by glo-sticks.

-- Newshound (Newshound@msnmail.com), December 08, 1998.


I hear you're looking for links on electric utility compliance for a reporter. Here are some of the best links I know of:

Yahoo! guide to electric ulility SEC filings: http://biz.yahoo.com/research/indgrp/util_elec_pwr.html

Extensive list of Y2K-related utility links: http://www.euy2k.com/links.htm

Bank/utility compliance checker: http://www.2000amisafe.com/

An older link on getting Y2K info on electric companies: http://www.nrdc.org/nrdc/nrdc/nrdcpro/utilprof/utilitys.html

Here are a few more links to get Y2K info on businesses in general.

Fortune 500 Y2K Data Pages: http://www.flybyday.com/y2k/

Dr. Edward Yardeni - Search SEC Y2K Reports: http://www.progsys.com/yardeni/Y2KFind.asp

Washington Post - Search SEC Data: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- srv/washtech/longterm/y2k/database.htm

Hoover's guide to company information: http://www.hoovers.com/

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), December 08, 1998.

Is it even remotely possible that this blackout could be attributable to Y2K testing?

-- Trigger Effect (z@z.z), December 08, 1998.

Here's a story with "iron triangle" implications:

http://cbs.marketwatch.com/archive/19981208/news/current/outage_pcx.ht x?dist=hoov&source=blq/hoovers

"Power outage hits Pacific Exchange"

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), December 08, 1998.

Wow. This is an eye opener! All this chaos caused by one malfunctioning station! Where's contengency in all this? Generators not working, hotel lobbies lit by GLOW STICKS?! I bet those hotels haven't heard of y2k yet!

One station...one area. Multiply that by (enter your number here).

If anyone here had any doubts about the time and money they spent on thier preparations...this should put our mind at ease. You won't find ME stuck in an elevator in 2000.

Thanks for all this research work Diane.

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), December 08, 1998.

ABC news reports

"The outage happened when a construction crew at a power substation in suburban San Mateo County made a mistake involving a temporary ground, said Gordon Smith, Pacific Gas & Electric president and chief executive officer. "

Power out in San Fransisco

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), December 08, 1998.

closing tag

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), December 08, 1998.

11:15 a.m. -1:00 p.m. -- S.F. Power Outage Update From The Local TV News Stations:

-- Heavy lines of people stuck at BART Bay Area Rapid Transit District train stations at rush hour this morning. Some people we caught in tubes under Bay. First to be rescued by BART workers. Calm and crowded.

-- Many people still kept GOING INTO THE CITY even though lights out were. Since they couldnt call companies on phone, this happened at morning rush hour, then still had desire to get to work. Found cars, cabs and ferries as alternate ways in. Go figure. Some were computer workers that had to get into offices to work with emergency back-up systems.

-- Reporter, Bruce Bellingham, on the spot in the Marina district reporting on cell phone called it dicey. Said most businesses had closed. Banks like Bank of America had closed because the computers were down -- counting money by hand. Said people tended to huddle in bars or standard coffee watering hole drinking coke instead of hot coffee. Gathered in small enclaves to talk about it. Reporter said people in crisis pull together and develop comraderie. Said there was a real feeling about the old Loma Prieta 89 earthquake days where it was dark, no heat, and no one working. Friendliness up, people taking care of one another.

-- Reports on people in small businesses trying to just carry on with business as usual, like barbers cutting hair, in sunlight. People referring to the event as an earthquake drill.

-- Reports of people marooned at home because cars stuck in garages and didnt know where manual opening devices were.

-- TV on-air personalities speculating about interconnectedness and domino effect of interdependency. At TV stations, people using pocket flashlights were able to get to their desks. Illustrated determination to be on the job.

-- PG&E spokesman, Len Anderson said substation crew working on construction project of grounding device, made a mistake, explosion, steam release, which set off a series of events. Nearby golfers on golf course, were clueless about power outage continued playing but heard bomb-like sound at nearby San Mateo substation. This happened at a high-voltage substation that then sends energy to other substations where it is stepped down. Potrero Hills is one, the other, Mission sub-station was affected downline of San Mateo and is a vital step-down station that relies heavily on mechanical process.

-- Have to manually flip circuit brakers to turn on section by section of electricity in city.

-- PG&E press conference closed to cameras, Gordon Smith, CEO announced it was due to simple human error.

-- PG&E will take proper steps to see that it doesnt happen again. They were able to respond to some customers within an hour of the outage.

-- Same reporter, Bruce Bellingham, an hour later reported power just coming on in Marina district, gathered people grateful to have warm coffee again. Life being restored. People huddled and hung together.

-- Other reporters out in street, saying as a power section would come on, people in that area started cheering loudly.

-- PacBell says phone service was on but most people had electrically powered phones. Cordless phones didnt work -- need electricity. They recommend people keep at least one of the old style phones around for emergency situations.

Note: Ive taken so many notes I cant type them all fast enough!! -- Diane, nother update soon.

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 08, 1998.

Diane, we watched the local news stations from 12/Noon to 1/p, and NOT ONE had ONE SECOND of coverage of the San Francisco Black-out! And this is the Pacific NorthWest, where just three days ago, there was a major announcement headlining all news that an 8.5 - 9 earthquake is, once again, expected soon, and we MUST get ready. You'd think ppl would be alert for any 'drill' hints!

Thank you AGAIN, over & over, for your news reporting, Diane. You have become our de facto info feed. Thanks also to all the others who contribute to our growing understanding of just how interconnected and dependent we are, and how woefully unaware the majority population is.

Ashton & Leska in Cascadia, who simply do not take elevators anymore, and enjoy the exercise

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 08, 1998.

Slight correction there ----

The problem was definitely not caused _by_ Y2K testing, but it may _result_ in Y2K testing.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), December 08, 1998.

Why "definitely" not caused by Y2K testing? isn't it possible they rolled the date forward on a SCADA system and had a chip go haywire or something? I've heard that substations are the most likely points where Y2K failures could impact power. Just trying to get opinions here...

-- Trigger Effect (z@z.z.), December 08, 1998.

1:50 p.m. -- S.F. Power Outage Update From The Local TV News Stations:

-- Sign on Shell Headquarters Building Power off 6 to 7 hours, please dont ask to come in. Security guards had to keep workers OUT of building.

-- Gas stations were knocked out, unable to pump gas.

-- Cities workers tending to call it a day around noon. It affected every walk of life. Some people were trembling fearfully and went to coffee shops to gather. Dont know if trembling was actually due to fear or lack of caffeine. Most people stayed calm and took it in stride. COOL S.F.!!

-- Reporters mostly used cell phones to report in to headquarters.

-- Supposedly some weather satellite were affected.

-- Many people reacted by calling in to local TV and radio stations, especially talk shows, to report in from their areas. Need to connect with the greater group.

-- According to PG&E, San Francisco is unique because there is only one conduit of electricity coming up into the isolated peninsula. They arent connected to other grids like most stations (usually 3 to 4 back-ups) as back-up power source. THERE IS NO BACK-UP POWER SOURCE FOR S.F!! The event triggered an isolated system. No evidence of sabatoge. They called it a robust system and also called it a partial system shut-down. May have some liability issues. Will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

-- PG&E has an automatic shut-down system, that triggers the circuit breakers. Calls it labor intensive to turn it all back on, manually, circuit breaker by circuit breaker. It takes time.

-- The power outage was felt as far away as Napa Valley and isolated parts of Livermore and Concord. Mostly centered on upper S.F. peninsula.

-- Hospitals had emergency power generators, operated at about 50% power. Kaiser Hospital reported phone lines increasingly became flooded with calls. Cancelled elective surgery, only dealt with emergency situation. San Francisco General Hospital also kicked on to back-up generators, kept trauma center open. No reports of problems.

-- Airport, SFO San Francisco International, Jerry Wilcox, spokesman, said there were mostly concerned about communications and navigation for incoming flights. Back-up systems went on. Re-routed flights. Anything controlled by computers went down. Jetways were out, and baggage handling. Fuelling system went down, couldnt pump gas. Reservation systems went down. Affects mostly on departures, about 50 to 60. Residual delays. No panic from passengers or airport visitors.

-- Fairmont Hotel reported that tourists were calm. Staff explaining situation to guests. Had a back-up generator system.

-- No increase in crime, no looting, SFPD San Francisco Police Department reports. At a local Sheriff departments jail locks stuck. Bailiffs stuck in elevators. Court system closed.

-- Extremely long lines developing at the Ferry building, for people needing alternate ways to get home, and get out of city. People calm. The Ferry organizers added more boats on to help move extra passengers. 400 per ship. Others wandering around, enjoying time off outside, overcast and somewhat gloomy. Good sense of humor displayed by most. Patient.

Note: I used to do computer imaging consulting for SCE Southern California Edison, so I walked around, with hardhat, was even sent 100 feet up in a cherry picker and flown around by helicopter around the sites, to take internal pictures at many different sub-stations. You have to be exceptionally careful working around all that humming stuff. One wrong move and its not pretty. I would expect the crews to take their SLOW time being very methodical about checking everything and being very careful to systematically turn things back on. Its a good thing. -- Diane

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 08, 1998.

2:45 p.m. -- S.F. Power Outage Update From The Local TV News Stations:

-- 2:OO p.m. report comes in that power restored to all customers according to Mary Rodriques, spokesperson for PG&E. May only be isolate outages that they are unaware of.

-- Elevator repair and maintenance companies doing record business, being called out to check systems and operations.

-- At 2:00 p.m. local TV stations returned to regular programming. Radio stations are now the sources that keep the intermittent news updates coming. Listening to KGO radio news now (in between Dr. Laura program, *Sigh*). Normalcy returns to the media once the crisis mode is called off, and once power is mostly back on.

-- PG&E said it was two gas powered sub-stations that were taken offline. It was a lower than normal voltage coming out of San Mateo that then triggered complex shut down, along the connected wire. It did what it is supposed to do.

-- Estimated that 1,000,000 million people were affected by the outage. PG&E refers to it as 372,000 customers. Someone said count about 2 1/2 people per PG&E customer.

-- This was a key emergency situation for S.F. Mayor Willie Brown, on TV he was looking decidedly stressed. Said the public works deployment was very good. Life-saving resources had back-up generators that worked. The airport was one of the first to come back up. Public housing supervised by the Housing Authority had back-up generators and workers were immediately dispatched to help the residents and older people. Schools held the students which would only be released to their parents. Saint Anthonys feeds the homeless and they continued to operate the lunch lines with bag lunches. People, from all over, stayed on the job, or came in, from outside the city to report to work and help.

-- MUNI activated 500 diesel powered buses, the electrical trams were obviously out. Just immediately pulled additional back-up crews into action.

-- Office of Emergency Services really kicked into gear. At SFPD kept night shift people on overtime, called in off duty back-up help.

-- Noticed that even though police were directing traffic at downed signals, ordinary citizens would take over an intersection and direct traffic. Bikers said it was quite pleasant because, for once drivers were really paying attention at those intersections.

-- On-air TV reporters kept commenting, and shaking their heads, marveling about the interconnectedness of it all, and the cause of all the rolling outages. One simple human error by a PG&E crew of about four workers who didnt follow procedures when working within the high voltage sub-station.

Note: The way the TV media is hinting at it, I really suspect this will trigger a MASSIVE examination, re-examination and pin-pointed scrutiny of PG&E at both the local and national levels, and the extrapolated Y2K implications for the power grid. Thanks angels everywhere!

Very calm and impressive emergency response, from one and all, within and around the whole of San Francisco. Good job guys!!!

Diane, signing off, for now, in Silicon Valley

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 08, 1998.

there were reported fights in the lines for payphones at the BART stations which were inoperative. Radio station KCBS reported this. It also reported after the power came back on in downtown SF there were lines at least 20 deep at every ATM in sight....

-- J Amphlett (vacajohn@pacbell.net), December 08, 1998.

Thank you, J Amphlett, and Diane, for the updates. This is an itty-bitty preview of potential failures. Unfortunately, it's not on the news, TV or much on the Internet. Have noticed also with earthquakes and other disruptions, only brief news mentions, no follow-ups. TV News anchors would rather talk about trivial scandals than large meaningful disruptive real events. Newspapers aren't much better. Why such blindness? Thank you both for reporting to us anything you hear that can better prepare us materially, emotionally, and mentally for similar and bigger disruptions.

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 08, 1998.

This is another reason why you should not live or work in the city. Just heard on the radio that it was human error that caused the outage. We haven't seen anything yet. But, things are back to normal, people will forget about the day, and hit it again tomorrow with no thought that it will happen again.

-- bardou (bardou@baloney.com), December 08, 1998.

An interesting side-note. . .

When I read Leska's first post, I turned on CNN's Headline News. Throughout the day, they have "headlined" the SF power outage, but not in nearly the detail that we all got from Diane. They were consistently about a half hour behind Diane's postings as well!

Diane, thanks for the coverage! Maybe you should consider looking for work as a reporter!

-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), December 08, 1998.

Everything worked perfectly in this "fix-on-failure" situation. Ground-fault protection devices worked as they were designed to do - protect the transmission cables, wires and bus bars so no physical damage occurs. Don't worry about the reported "explosion" sounds from substations. High-voltage fused switches do make a very loud "bang" when they activate. It's normal.

A ground-fault, as this is being reported, is a catastrophic failure that can cause catastrophic damage. In this case, the system worked. Sometimes, asin the Quebec case, the system was severely damaged and repairs took weeks.

The important point to remember is that every large breaker trip or switch trip is recorded for historical analysis and record keeping. Breakers and switches have a maximum number of trips they are designed for. Record keeping is vital. All of the time and date stamped records for this outage occurred in 1998. When an event such as this occurs after the turn of the century, the time/date stamps will record data that, in many cases, will not be properly processed by the application programs used for monitoring and maintenance. An unrecognized field will default to a scenario where the control system will prevent power from being brought up again without first solving the date discrepency.

If such an event occurs after the turn of the century, and the code remediation to allow the entry of a 2000 date has not been completed or is still buggy, the ability to restore power quickly will be severely hampered.

I believe this is the true lesson to be learned from this event.

Good work Diane and Leska. Thanks for your dedication.

-- PNG (png@gol.com), December 08, 1998.

Thank you, PNG, for your response. Factual, reasoned, scientific, technical understandings are most welcome and grounding.

This just out on Breaking News.
Notice how the natural disaster experts are talking about the perils of technical dependence, the need for personal responsibility and obligation to prepare? There is a new urgency and new hard reality about preparing for as long as months. Coalescing!


Scientists Say Cost Of Natural Disasters Is Rising

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Scientists say this year's record-setting El Nino demonstrates that the cost of natural disasters is rising, both in terms of financial costs and human lives, despite improvements in risk forecasting.

More people in the United States and other nations are living in harms' way, they said, and are only beginning to seriously consider what might happen if a severe storm, drought, fire or other catastrophe swept through their area.

At the same time, researchers said people have become dependent on technologies and public infastructures that tend to get knocked out during disasters and are increasingly vulnerable.

So while El Nino and other phenomena may intensify weather conditions, the greater problem may be that people take insufficient precautions despite a revolution in public safety warnings ranging in time scales from minutes to months, scientists and government officials say.

By ignoring the risks, what might have been a rough day or two could become a mega-disaster on the scale of Hurricane Mitch in Central America, which killed 10,000 in late October.

In the past decade, there have been more natural disasters that have caused at least $1 billion in damages than in past decades, scientists say.

``People are saying 'If my house is flooded, maybe I'm dumb for living where I am,''' said William Hooke of the U.S. Department of Commerce. ``Disaster costs are doubling or tripling every 10 years. We need to put more responsibility on people's shoulders for living in harm's way.''

Climatologists, geologists and social scientists discussed the impacts of natural disasters and the shortcomings of predictions Tuesday in special sessions at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

In the first 11 months of this year, the Worldwatch Institute estimates that the world's economy has suffered $89 billion in losses from natural disasters. The death toll so far is 32,000; 300,000 people lost their homes.

It is unclear how much of it can be blamed on El Nino, the warm water mass formed in the eastern Pacific that affects precipitation and temperatures throughout the world, or its successor, La Nina.

But scientists said a wise approach may be to tackle it as a lifestyle and political because natural disasters will always occur.

``It's not an on-off switch for climate-related disasters. Every year there are climate anomalies,'' said Roger Pielke Jr. of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. ``We could've known that 10,000 people would die in Central America with a hurricane like Mitch. It already happened in 1900 in Galveston, Texas.

Copyright 1998 Associated Press.


-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 08, 1998.

And this just in from Y2KNEWSWIRE :



Guess what, folks: the power system *is* vulnerable to a domino-effect failure. Earlier today (Tuesday), over one million residents of San Francisco lost power. According to this WIRED story (link below), here's what happened (as described by the WIRED story):

"An electrical power substation about 20 miles south of San Francisco failed shortly after 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, causing a chain reaction that tripped the two main power generators in San Francisco and knocked out power to 375,000 utility customers in a 49-mile square area. Pacific Gas and Electric estimated that 938, 000 people were affected by the outage."

The story quotes Peter Neumann, author of "Computer Related Risks," as saying, "The entire power generation, transmission, and distribution problem is suffering, because there is very little spare power anymore."

The cause of the problem? According to the power company, "The cause of the outage was simple human error, which then triggered a complex sequence of events."

That's frightening. If "simple human error" can cause this, what might complex human error (i.e. Y2K) cause?

The power outage caused massive problems. The SFO airport suffered a total power failure and was running on generators, and BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, lost 17 of its 57 trains. Elevators were stuck mid-floor and the morning commute was a frenzy.

This event is a reminder of what can happen when Y2K hits, and it alerts us to the fallibility of the power services. This was ONE little glitch. What happens when the Y2K rollover causes a hundred such problems? Or a thousand? And then you combine those little glitches with other little glitches from the phone system, the 911 system, the transportation infrastructure and the banks. What do you get then?

By the way, this little incident is also going to deplete inventories of generators in the Bay Area as people finally get it: Hey, we could lose power! If you live in San Fran and you've been *thinking* about getting a generator, you're now TOO LATE. But it's not too late to move out of the city altogether, which is probably the safest option, considering what might happen if the power stays off for DAYS instead of hours.

In this case, power was restored within hours to most customers, but that might not be the case when Y2K hits. Y2KNEWSWIRE encourages people to stock a 30-day supply of food, water, medicine, cash and heating supplies in case a much longer power outage occurs during the 1/1/2000 rollover. Or better yet, distance yourself from any high-density population center.

* There are few backup power supplies available, so some failures that used to have backups no longer do
* Failures DO cascade throughout the system. In this case, one small substation caused a power loss to one million people
* Power failures almost immediately bring a city to its knees.
All transportation is immediately threatened, and few businesses have enough fuel to run generators longer than 24 hours.
* All it takes is one simple little human mistake to cause one million people to lose power. What might a complex, unpredictable problem like Y2K cause to happen?
* Demands on the power system are higher than ever, and extra power bandwidth is almost non-existent. There is very little "extra" to go around if power stations start to fail.

xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 08, 1998.

Check out http://www.wired.com for an article I worked on; I interviewed someone with the US government critical infrastructure group who called it a good example of what could happen if Y2K problems aren't fixed. background: http://www.well.com/user/declan/pubs/

-- Declan McCullagh (declan@well.com), December 08, 1998.

Check out http://www.wired.com for an article I worked on; I interviewed someone with the US government critical infrastructure group who called it a good example of what could happen if Y2K problems aren't fixed. background:


-- Declan McCullagh (declan@well.com), December 08, 1998.

Declan McCullagh, that is a great article! Why didn't you post it on this thread right away ?? Are you modest, or shy, or is there a copyright problem? I've never understood about the copyright thingy; hope nobody sues me for posting. It wouldn't be necessary to post articles here if the URLs stayed good forever, but they don't. Please let us know right away whenever you write or see an article about Y2K! Do you have eMail alerts? Anyway, here's your article :)


SF Blackout: Y2K Dress Rehearsal
by Chris Oakes and Craig Bicknell
12:40 p.m. 8.Dec.98.PST

When the lights went out Tuesday on nearly 1 million San Francisco Bay Area residents, the blackout served as a warning of what might happen in a society dependent upon electricity for basic services and commerce.

"This could very well be a reflection of a Y2K disaster that's not properly managed," said Nancy Wong, a spokeswoman for the US Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office.

"It's another reminder of how tremendously dependent everyone is on power," added Peter Neumann, a critical infrastructure expert and the author of the book Computer Related Risks.

"It's kind of a harbinger of the Year 2000 problem. We're in practice mode right now."

An electrical power substation about 20 miles south of San Francisco failed shortly after 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, causing a chain reaction that tripped the two main power generators in San Francisco and knocked out power to 375,000 utility customers in a 49-mile square area. Pacific Gas and Electric estimated that 938,000 people were affected by the six-hour outage.

Neumann said one of the issues facing the information society is that power itself is in increasingly less supply at the dawn of the millennium.

"The entire power generation, transmission, and distribution problem is suffering, because there is very little spare power anymore," he said.

Therefore, backup power supplies that once filled in during outages are also less available, Neumann said. The reason is simply greater demand.

The information age -- with its computers, appliances, networks, communications systems, and more -- eats power, using up what used to be a stand-by supply.

There is a similar drain on what used to be extra bandwidth and switching in the telecommunications infrastructure, Neumann said. "This sounds like a very unusual situation," said Wong. "The utility companies such as Pacific Bell and PG&E have a lot of disaster recovery plans to bring power back as quickly as possible. This sounds like something that happened unexpectedly."

Wong said that companies and city officials should think of Tuesday's blackout as a cautionary tale.

"We can't predict everything that's going to happen," she said. "Computers are so pervasive that when you think about infrastcture protection and assurance you have to think of the whole range of possibilities.

"That's how you manage unpredictability."

In March, a power outage left the central business district of Auckland, New Zealand, without electricity for weeks, showing both the fragility of critical services infrastructure and the endurance of information-based commerce.

Thanks to the decentralization of businesses using computer networks, much of New Zealand's business kept humming. Institutions with more centralized systems, like the New Zealand Stock Exchange, and some of the country's banks, insurance companies, and accounting firms, fell victim to the long outage.

Many smaller businesses were relocated to offices in Auckland's suburbs, or buildings in other cities. In some cases, workers were sent home with laptop computers.

Neumann sees no simple fixes for the United States, a society that has become dependent on telecommunications and power.

Outages like Tuesday's are yet another warning that everyone -- from governments down to businesses and individuals -- needs to be more prepared.

"What's needed is more long-term planning and thinking," Neumann said. The lesson of such incidents is fundamentally greater awareness of what could happen, and to be as prepared as possible. "No one knows what will happen. Technology is not perfect."

Neumann noted that despite the fears, incidents like this are rarely due to hacking or break-ins, despite a San Francisco outage attributed to that very cause.

The FBI investigated an October 1997 outage at an electrical substation in San Francisco that affected 126,000 customers. Pacific Gas and Electric said at the time that someone may have deliberately manipulated equipment at the substation to break circuits. "We've had relatively few cases of sabotage."

Washington correspondent Declan McCullagh contributed to this story.


-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 08, 1998.

Hardliner, same here. Nothing here in the east on local news that I could see.

This thread reminds me of the power of the internet. Tianamen Square (sp?). Here's Diane and Leska reporting in detail what the whole country should have heard on national news. We get the earthquake reports from CA, but why not this power outage?! Perhaps it's because there was no looting? No death? No THRILLS??

This thread is great. Should be classified in new category, "Lessons learned".

Great job Diane and Leska.

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), December 08, 1998.

1:30 a.m. -- FINAL S.F. Power Outage Update From The Local TV News Stations:

Between 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Dec. 8th, all television programming was back to normal. At 4:00, I watched Oprah. Interestingly, her hour long program was dedicated to interviewing Peter Jennings, of ABC World News Tonight. Good, informative show about Peters new book Century and lots of film clips from our visual history this century. (Shes one powerful lady!).

At 5:30 p.m., I watched Peter Jennings, of ABC World News Tonight just to see what the Bay Area Blackout would look like on the national news. The Top story -- Clintons Impeachment Hearings with lawyers on Capitol Hill. The second story gave five minutes coverage to the Power Outage in San Francisco. Referred to it as a major disruption impacting computers, telephones, traffic lights, etc., where human error set off a series of events. In other words, something big on the West Coast was worth a mention, but since the impact on the East Coast was marginal, well, five minutes was enough air time.

Translation, IF, Y2K TEOTWAWKI happens, -- I personally still hope for a 5 -- it does so locally! It is only the folks going through the direct experience, who would refer to what is an event to others, as a crisis situation to them.

To continue, after Oprah, at 5:00 p.m., I kept flipping between the 4 major TV stations here for the local news broadcasts:

FOX 2 News: www.bayinsider.com

KRON TV Channel 4 (NBC): http://www.kron.com

KPIX TV Channel 5 (CBS): http://www.kpix.com

ABC 7 News ( Channel 7): http://www.abcnews.com/local/ ?? (Gotta find that one)

What follows is an amalgamation of hastily scribbled notes. If I was writing a news story, Id do this differently, but as it is, this is raw information, from an event specific, dedicated channel surfer. BTW, they ARE getting it. Y2K correlations were being sprinkled, occasionally, as the on-air reporters spoke:

-- ABC 7 News refers to it as the Bay Area Blackout with no power, no newspapers, because the printing presses arent working. (Although the San Francisco Examiner ingeniously had their afternoon editions printed in the East Bay where power was on, then ferried the print copies over to the city).

-- Mayor Willie Brown declared the situation a city-wide state of emergency, which isnt like what it sounds. It means that city employees must remain on the job, they wont tow cars or charge to use MUNI transportation until midnight, since they needed to deploy those workers elsewhere. People who owe a property tax will receive a one day extension.

-- There were lots of visual vingettes about what individual people experienced: Law firm secretaries still filing by flashlight; Pacific Stock Exchange idle -- no trading -- because the computers were down and the back-up systems couldnt run (managers standing on street biting nails); cash registers not working so even though some smaller stores could remain open, couldnt make sales; street vendors selling hot dogs, doing a record business; dog grooming shop unable to blow dry washed dogs; Xerox print shop unable to print or deliver time- sensitive projects; computers down needing rebooting; burglar alarms going off all over that police officers had to respond to and try to shut off (manual switches werent obvious); candlelight bars and tons of empty beer bottles, cameras focused on stressed bartenders, but the good news was they got great tips because couldnt make change; a dim sum restaurant open using gas to cook; some restaurants serving cold food items; other restaurants setting up sidewalk tables and selling their cold food to passersby; most shops closed after several hours; showed rushes to the telephones or ATMs.

-- Emphasis on how people went out of their way to help one another...one woman walked down 20 flights of stairs only after she helped others get out too. Elevators jammed with people stuck several hours. Building security, and other emergency crews, took crowbars to get them out. Cable car and MUNI electric bus drivers became impromptu traffic cops wherever their buses stopped and said they wanted to make themselves useful.

-- Extreme courtesy was shown at the traffic lights. The Blackout knocked out over 1,000 traffic signals, police were only deployed to 60 of the major intersections. People, off the street, helped out where needed.

-- So far, only one death attributed to the event when a truck hit a pedestrian. Sad. The woman died later after emergency workers to her to S.F. General Hospitals open trauma center. S.F. General Hospital is a Level 1 trauma center. Its 325 patients were not at all affected. In fact two surgeries in process were completed without mishap. The group has disaster drills every couple months.

-- Fire crews helped get people out of the BART (Bay Area rapid Transit) tunnels, along the safety catwalks. Most trains had enough auxiliary power to roll into the next stations, so they werent stranded on the tracks. MUNI (Municipal Transportation) had half of the transportation knocked out. Only 1/2 of the busses run on petroleum. Trolleys, cable cars and electric busses stalled in the streets. Cab drivers did a booming business. The ferries, diverted their boats, normally used for cruising tourists around the scenic waters, to double then triple the ferries used to transport people out of San Francisco, across to Sausalito, Tiburon and the East Bay.

-- At the PG&E substation that started it all, ground zero as the newsmedia was calling it, numerous TV crews took endless film footage of the heavy metal and discussed the need to see that it doesnt happen again. A special task force is being set up by PG&E. There was a brief mention that Y2K software testing was also going on. Some TV shots of the PG&E war room managing the turn on situation. It took them an hour to figure out who and how many were affected and what needed to be done to restore power.

-- LIABILITY, Mayor Willie Brown asks Who picks up the tab for all the officers directing traffic? To people the day was an inconvenience. To business, it was lost revenues. The TV news is asking if people thought they suffered a loss, to keep documented tabs. If a power outage is an act of god then PG&E is not liable, however negligence means they are liable. PG&E has acknowledged fault and is mobilizing out of area claims managers to respond to the expected flood, an avalanche, of claims. People can all 1-800-PGE- 5000 for information. They will determine on a case-by-case basis, if liability was incurred. (Expect to see some major courtroom action over this issue as well). Web-site is www.pge.com. CEO admitted that the system can always be improved, as can switching gear, training of personnel, and that they cant afford to have this happen again, especially in a de-regulated system.

-- Computer repair shops were seeing an unprecedented number of power surged and fried motherboards requiring replacement. Strongly recommended surge protectors on all important electronic devices -- computers, stereos, fridges, etc. -- and to completely unplug all key equipment after outage, so that when the power comes back on, it doesnt spike them.

-- The S.F. nerve center was the OES Office of Emergency Services. Within 15 minutes of the Blackout city managers and department heads began arriving and were on top of the situation within the first half hour. There, they jointly decided when and where to deploy the city workers, i.e. troops. Spokespeople observed that it was in a crisis situation that they really learn how to cooperate. This group had emergency power. City Hall, on the other hand, was completely dark. Theyll all be doing quite a bit of after action assessment.

-- 911 facility was overloaded with calls. Back-up dispatcher crews were sent to help with phone lines. At one point there were thirty waiting calls stacked up for each dispatcher on the phones.

-- The airport, SFO San Francisco International, was working on installing a steam turbine back-up generator system to output 15 million watts. When operational, it will back-up for the entire airport operations, not just the control tower. Security gates, the kind departing passengers are scanned with, went down.

-- Later TV reported bank ATMs knocked out numbered about a thousand units.

-- Many school children were kept in classes. Because of last weeks earthquake, there had been classroom discussion about being prepared. In fact, several kids had brought in extra blankets, so this was treated an earthquake drill and live lesson for the kids.

-- Some holiday shopping continued. Nordstroms had a back-up generator, dimmed lights, blank receipts, flash lights, pens, calculators and the old hand kachunk-style unit to accept credit cards at each of the non-operational cash registers.

-- Said most people tried to find a silver lining to the day, such as going home early to soak in a hot tub, or referring to the day as an adventure if you have the right attitude. Several teenagers, stranded downtown went around singing Christmas carols. One visiting couple taking a cable car ride, sat talking for three hours until the car started up again. Most people coped patiently. Joggers ran. People in the high rises walked down the emergency stairs. Lots of people drank cold coffee at their local java spots.

-- Reporters suggesting San Franciscans walk tall, taking great pride in the way everyone calmly coped with the crisis. It showed everyone S.F. was cosmopolitan, sophisticated and coping gracefully, with style.

[Took a PBS break to watch Feet of Flames -- the latest in the Lord of the Dance/Riverdance series. Wow, that level of creativity, is just what makes humans great!! Tis proud I am ta have a wee bit of tha Irish, runnin thru me veins!]

Checked back in on the 10:00 OClock News and at 11:00 p.m. reports. Basically variations on the same theme. Now to Y2K...


Several stations devoted specific time to covering the blackout as a direct correlation to Y2K.

-- In the Y2K context they said: Todays power outage smacks of the millennium bug. This is a vulnerable system. A chain reaction knocked generators offline. Shades of Y2K to come. Tip of a very large iceberg. High-tech meltdown. No back-up. Plunged into a chaotic day.  S.F. is a power island. A wake-up call to be prepared. The causes may be different, but the effect is the same as Y2K concerns. Dress rehearsal for Y2K. This can bring down the infrastructure in the same way. The actions of a few can disrupt the many. Sobering lesson for Y2K or a major disaster. This is an alert for the entire country, and shows us what critical systems need to work, even when things go wrong.

-- Many internet web-sites were offline, mentioned C/net and Snap because there were no back-up generators to powers the computers. Bank of America and Wells Fargo sites were down. Wired magazines web-site is housed in the South Bay so it stayed on. At the Wired headquarters, people shown swapping batteries for the laptop computers and relying on their cell phones. There was a shortage of spare power.

-- This tested the Y2K metal of everyone here.

-- They drew analogies to the 1996 Western States power outage caused by a sagging tree.

-- Synchronistically, the U.S. Energy Secretary (didnt catch the name), WAS in town today. Interviewed on camera saying we are not yet prepared and we havent fully resolved the Y2K problems, and said we are woefully behind.

Thats all folks, from the Bay Area, newly Y2K awake, city by the bay. We can all expect to see lots of newspaper article and TV analogies made to Y2K in the days to come!! -- Diane

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 09, 1998.

Whoaa - Diane - awesome Lois Lane reporting there!!!

Shades of things to come! I was short of cash, ATM's not working, restaurants open with limited menus, cash or cheques only.

Pretty civilised but couldn't get a coffee anywhere:-)

To me it just proves how fragile the whole grid is - not y2k related at all - but it does not bode well for getting the grid back online after rollover if this is a precursor of events to come.

However I was fairly pleased to find out that no, I had *not* forgotten to pay the electricity bill:-) My brother the yellow cabbie did a roaring trade:)

And the maglite was money well spent.

-- Andy (andy_rowland@msn.com), December 09, 1998.

I am very, VERY impressed with the reporting job of Diane, et.al. Thank you!

Toward the end of Diane's last report, she wrote

"We can all expect to see lots of newspaper article and TV analogies made to Y2K in the days to come!!"

I only hope that this holds true, not just in the Bay area, but elswhere as well. As awareness grows, disasters of this sort may come to be seen through the eyes of Y2K. As far as I know, this did NOT happen with our local media yesterday in Tucson.

We had a natural gas shortage occur in part of our greater Tucson area. This affected thousands of homes, and many were without heat. We had an unusually cold morning, low of a 27 on my patio. The cold weather caused a drain on the gas system and the supply could not keep up with the demand. This is big news for Tucson, and people without heat is real big news. But the media made no correlation to the Y2K event. But as the awareness level changes this too will change.

-- Joe (jba@there.com), December 09, 1998.

Caffeine-Free Wake-Up For S.F. & Y2K

Finally! Someone really understands the morning java deprivation ramifications of Y2K! Chuckles.

There is a whole slew of articles on http://www.sfgate.com, search on Y2K and up pop the articles. Collecting em. -- Diane

Caffeine-free wake-up call for The City By Rob Morse [morse@examiner.com] EXAMINER COLUMNIST Wednesday, December 9, 1998 )1998 San Francisco Examiner

URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/examiner/hotnews/ stories/09/morse.dtl

THIS WAS the third wake-up call in a week, and this one was without coffee.

First there was a 4.1 quake in the East Bay. Then there was a tornado in Richmond. On Tuesday there was a blackout in San Francisco, right at rush hour and caffeine rush hour.

God is telling us something, something about going to Costco and stocking up on batteries, food, bottled water and a camp stove to make our own joe. Stock up at the ATM too, because the forces of darkness at PG&E control our cash.

We discovered the funniest things worked, and some unfunny things didn't, just as we did after the earthquake in 1989.

We learned that all our computers and links to the Internet are dependent on technology invented by Edison - sparks through cables that some dope can short out by forgetting to throw a switch.

Powering a computerized economy with PG&E is like powering a UFO with a rubber band.

We also discovered that we were on our own. Some of us knew that already from '89. Good luck finding a cop or a fire truck when the Big One or the Millennium comes.


A couple of hours into the blackout on Tuesday, the only person I saw directing traffic was Pan Pacific Hotel doorman James Spencer, a veteran of the 1965 New York blackout. Also spotted directing traffic were cable car gripmen, a priest and some nuns. Official city authority figures were in short supply.

"Where's the DPT right now?" said Brian Martinez, who had to drive a Sysco Food Services delivery truck all over town.

During rush hour Tuesday, between the Marina and downtown, I saw all of one DPT guy, and he was writing a ticket.

Fortunately, most ordinary San Franciscans performed magnificently. Just as in '89, on Tuesday drivers stopped for stoplights that weren't working, and took turns letting each other through - most of them.

After all, you can't run a red light that never turns red.

At intersections on Market Street, pedestrians ruled - and never gave drivers a break.


Muni worked - the diesels, anyway. Muni is used to disaster.

The diesel buses were out in force within the first hour of the citywide blackout, carrying people to work, and then back home when they found out their workplaces were closed. It was like D-Day and Dunkirk, all in one morning, but without the shooting. Most people were polite.

"It's nice to see some smiling faces," said John Pitts, a driver on the 14-Mission line on Tuesday afternoon. "You should have seen some of the tempers this morning."

Marco DiTano, owner of the Mondo Cafe at Mission and Second, has a theory about why San Franciscans are at their best during earthquakes and blackouts.

"When insane things happen, the people who are already nuts are more sane than the sane people," he said. "That's why Muni worked. That's why San Franciscans came through."

When the going gets weird, the weird get going.


DiTano counts himself among those who are already a little nuts, so he came through for his regulars by making the most valuable substance of all Tuesday morning: coffee. He boiled the water in the pizza oven.

"As soon as the word got out, it was like the plague - word spread everywhere," he said. "They were coming back for coffee. They were standing in line. I had to hand out numbers."

Officer Lee Dahlberg walked from the Hall of Justice to his post in Hallidie Plaza. "The two things I wanted when I got here were coffee and a potty."

The blackout had shut down the automated JCDecaux toilet near the cable car turnaround - with no one inside, fortunately.

That morning, according to Dahlberg, his lieutenant was thinking up practice scenarios for emergency drills - and just then, the lights went out.

Suddenly, there it was: an emergency scenario for all those other bad things that could happen in San Francisco.


Someone on Channel 2 offered a theory that the blackout might be a Y2K practice drill.

That's what it was, all right, but by accident. It was human error as usual at PG&E. Homer Simpson seems to have taken a job at a substation in San Mateo.

The power came back only in patches. By midday Tuesday, the power at the offices of one of the most powerful men in The City hadn't come on.

"I guess Walter Shorenstein didn't pay his power bill," said former Assemblyman Bill Bagley, who was parked in a car in front of Shorenstein's dark building at 50 California.

The fact is, we all pay our power bills, and that can be a lot of money. For that, PG&E pays us back with a lottery.

For some, it meant losses of thousands of dollars in business, and maybe even being stuck in an elevator at work.

For others, it was just a bad hair day because the dryer didn't work.

For almost everyone it was a wake-up call. A wake-up call without coffee to wake up with.

Remember, when you're buying your French roast for your emergency supplies, be sure to have the beans ground because your coffee grinder won't work. I don't care if it is a Braun, it's run by PG&E.

)1998 San Francisco Examiner

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 09, 1998.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1998-12/09/053l-120998-idx .html

Daylong Blackout Leaves San Franciscans Feeling Powerless

By William Booth, Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 9, 1998; Page A03

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 8The city that boasts it is the most wired on earth was unplugged today by a massive power outage that left several million people without electricity, darkened office towers, halted public transportation and trapped dozens in stalled elevators.

The cause?

It was not an earthquake, tsunami or El Niqo. It was simple human error, said apologetic Pacific Gas and Electric President Gordon Smith. Construction workers at a power substation in suburban San Mateo south of here forgot to remove several temporary grounds when they returned power to the main line after maintenance. Their mistake fried the system, which shut down a few minutes after 8 a.m.

The result?

About 375,000 PG&E customers -- meaning millions of people, as each account can include a household, business or office -- found themselves living off the grid most of the day. Transportation ground to a halt during the morning rush hour. Bay Area Rapid Transit subways stalled on the tracks and in the tunnels. So, too, did San Francisco's iconic cable cars and most city buses, which all run on electricity. Traffic signals flicked off.

And gridlock began.

Within minutes, modern Americans were reminded how much their world relies on electricity. Stores and offices were dark caves. No ATMs. No coffee grinders. No elevators and escalators. Financial markets closed. Flights to San Francisco International Airport were temporarily diverted, not because planes could not fly, but because the jetways that get people on and off the aircraft are powered by electricity.

People milled on the streets. Cars treated all intersections like four-way stops and police were on hand in abundance to direct the traffic. Advertising signs were dark, and buses and cable cars stood idle at the curbs.

Perhaps most disconcerting of all, a city filled with people who spend their days perched before computers saw the screens go blank. On news radio programs, computer technicians urged calm, advising nervous callers how to retrieve potentially lost files.

"It was like, bang, and you're off line," said Peter Ryder, a young financial analyst sipping green tea at a corner cafe in the North Beach neighborhood. "It reminds you that all most of us do for a living is pass around information in bits and bytes. No electricity, and civilization ends as we know it. I sorta like it."

Many of San Francisco's digital citizens mentioned -- with a mix of real concern and ironic detachment -- that today's outage was perhaps a glimpse of the chaos that could be caused in the first minutes of the year 2000, when the so-called Y2K problem will reveal itself. Y2K is the shorthand given to fears that, because many computers are not programmed to understand the passing of 1999 to the year 2000, communications systems and everything else that relies on computers may go on the fritz on Jan. 1, 2000.

San Francisco police and emergency officials did, in fact, see the blackout as a dry run through a possible Y2K scenario. Many citizens, however, seemed to view the outage as an almost welcome diversion to their work life.

"It's just like a snow day," said Karen Casey, who works for an Internet startup company, as she worked on a painting in her apartment in the Mission neighborhood. "I got a message from my boss asking me to go into work, but I called him back and he was still in bed, so I stayed home. Even if I go to work I can't do anything. There's no power, there's no computer, there's no lights and there's no heat. The Web site is on battery backup, but who knows how long that will last?" Brian Miller, a paralegal, was on his way to the office to organize the paperwork he rarely has time to do. "Now I have to walk the 3 1/2 miles to work," he joked, "but hopefully there will be some carnage to look at along the way."

Emergency officials said that despite traffic snarls and commuting delays, the city was orderly. Hospitals and many offices switched over to auxiliary generators to power lights and run priority equipment. So, too, did many operations that run international Internet sites. There were no reports of looting or mayhem.

This was the second major blackout in the past two years. A similar outage occurred on the morning of Oct. 23, 1997, and was blamed on sabotage to switches at another substation. Investigators suspect that current or former PG&E employees may have been responsible, as there were no signs of forced entry. That investigation continues.

Power was restored to most Bay Area neighborhoods in the late afternoon. The initial electricity meltdown had cut the juice to most of San Francisco, with about 800,000 residents, and into neighboring communities south down the peninsula and as far north as Napa, with hundreds of thousands more.

Mayor Willie Brown expressed frustration with PGE officials, who he suggested were overly optimistic in how fast they could bring the system back. Brown said he had assumed the power company had backup systems, but it did not.

"I assume that this will give them a lesson," Brown said.

Special correspondent Cassandra Stern contributed to this report.

) Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx x

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 09, 1998.

Gonna be interesting to see what ripples out, and how far, from The City By The Bay.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 09, 1998.

The San Francisco Gate web-site has a...

Blackout Bulletin Board at http://www.sfgate.com/blackout/index.shtml Welcome. Please use this bulletin board to post information, to query others, or to relate stories you may have to tell concerning Tuesday's blackout. All information and answers to queries will come from users of the Bulletin Board. Fill out the form at the bottom of this page to post a new message...

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 09, 1998.

Quick update.

The TV evening newsmedia still are making the Y2K connection. Big "negligence" problem brewing for PG&E. Should get other utilities to pay attention, and extrapolate on their Y2K "negligence" liability exposure.

Print media running 50-50% reporting Blackout stories v.s. Blackout stories mentioning Y2K.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 10, 1998.

May I say, Thank You, for all the good reporting.

I enjoyed reading the info


-- Reader (Reader@home.com), December 10, 1998.

Thank you so much, Diane, you are terrific! A real-life pertinent situation with real-life reporting. Even though it was just a few hours, it gives something concrete to think about, a grounding out of the clouds of speculation. Thanks!

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 10, 1998.

Kudos to you Diane. Nice job!

-- Uncle Deedah (oncebitten@twiceshy.com), December 10, 1998.

I am posting my husband's opinion about the recent SF power outage. He works as Operations Manager of a gas turbine power plant. He knows quite a bit about the power industry, has over 15 years experience with it, and I trust his opinion on these things. Keep in mind that this is only his opinion....

>Finally I get around to reading... This, from the reports, looks >like a Y2K test. Manual switching does not happen unless the >dispatcher cannot switch in the circuit breakers remotely. Manual >switching requires a line crew to go to the sub station and close >the circuit breaker by hand. It is a scary procedure. (I KNOW !). >The report of "steam" being release from a substation is B.S. The >only thing that could cause anything like that would be an over- >heated transformer, which would also cause power loss.

Bobbi +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ "Civilization is the process of setting man free from men." -- Ayn Rand -- +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Y2k? http://www.buzzbyte.com/ Got water? Got Beans? Take the Y2k Preparation Quiz!

-- Bobbi (volfnat@northweb.com), December 11, 1998.

Also, it was reported that the root cause of the initial "repair" was due to a Y2K-related replacement of remote controlled breakers from non-compliant to compliant units. (The source cause of failure was leaving temporary grounding straps installed when the unit was powered back up.)

Diane.....can you follow up? See if anybody gives a better explanation.

This combined "systemetic" failure of the grid is why I am deeply suspicious of electrical reliability in post 2000.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), December 13, 1998.


I will. I've been collecting scads of articles. There are over 80 on the blackout at www.sfgate.com alone.

Need to finish with my e-mail to Congress project first. I'll try calling a few local journalists by phone once I have more digital "ammo."


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 13, 1998.

P.S. I've just about decided that the "investigative" journalists at the San Jose Mercury News are pretty worthless. Recall, it's a Knight Ridder enterprise and the new CIO in charge is David Starr of Reader's Digest fame -- he thinks Y2K is a "non event."


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 13, 1998.

See also Did you hear about the huge power outage in SF today? THREAD.

An anonymous poster stated...

J, Just talked to a friend of mine who knows a guy that was working on that crew. Boy are they pissed! They had re-routed the supply source through another channel so they could replace one of the old units with non-compliant chips. They hooked up the new unit and switched the source power back through it. He said that sonfabitch must not have been rated to handle that much juice cause she just fried. Now he's pissed cause the President of PG&E is telling the news that they grounded it out. I don't think changing all of those parts is going to be as easy as they think.

Answered by z (z@z.com) on December 08, 1998.

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 13, 1998.

Well, looks like the SanFran power outage has definitely raised red flags for Y2K-caused blackouts.
Gary North has two referrals to articles about this today:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?fi le=/examiner/archive/1998/12/13/NEWS2691.dtl

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?fi le=/chronicle/archive/1998/12/15/MN41984.DTL

This is very interesting and sobering reading. In fact, there were many articles out today throughout the media that confirm bad-case certainties for Y2K meltdown.

How anybody escapes a troubled sense of the future is beyond me. Even the managerial & maintenance staff of our apt. complex are 'getting it.' Apparently there was a good show on TV Sunday night, Town Hall, where some professors advised having *at least* 3 months of all supplies stored in each person's home. The time advice is creeping upwards.

The apt. manager's reaction was interesting. This is a woman with a real heart, whose first response was horror that the govt wasn't warning ppl outright. She said, "How can they let us buy trivial toys this Christmas for our children when we should be stocking up bare essentials to save their lives? Most of us live paycheck to paycheck, and won't be able to prepare on short notice."

Ashton & Leska in Cascadia, who think revolution is a mild way to describe what's coming
xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), December 15, 1998.


Here's a link to a story I saw yesterday at Gary North's site:


"California: A Basket Case With a Happy Face Painted on It"

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), December 16, 1998.

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