SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A power substation fire triggered a massive outage in San Francisco Friday, forcing the closure of a downtown BART station during rush hour and leaving some customers without power until it was finally restored after 5 p.m.

The outage left people stuck in elevators, shut down hospital operating rooms and halted service on city’s famed cable car lines.

Pacific Gas and Electric spokesman Barry Anderson said the power outage began with the failure of a circuit breaker at the large substation at Larkin and Eddy streets.

“We had equipment failure, the catastrophic failure of a circuit breaker,” said Anderson. “When it failed, it created a fire in the insulation surrounding the breaker … Something went wrong with the breaker to cause it to explode.”

A city transportation official said that at its height, the outage knocked out a third of San Francisco’s traffic signals.

Mayor Ed Lee said of the 88,000 customers who lost power, 58,000 has been restored by 2 p.m. The remainder would be restored by 5 p.m.

21 schools were among the customers who lost power. At its worst, approximately 300 or about one quarter of the city’s stoplights were out.

PG&E said the equipment was old. From a PR standpoint, the meltdown couldn’t have had worse timing.

Just a few days ago, reports revealed that PG&E had given all its executives substantial raises. With customers paying higher rates, some are understandably concerned the utility is spending the money in the wrong place.

“The Larkin substation was one we identified to be redone in 2017-18 and needed to be modernized,” said PG&E spokesperson Barry Anderson.

What was likely going to be a $100 million job for that substation alone now could cost much more.

As of 4 p.m., the number of customers who still did not have power had been reduced to less than 3,000. Power was restored to all customers shortly after 5 p.m.

Lee said there were no reports of major injuries during the outage.

The city’s Department of Emergency Management said the outages were concentrated in the northern part of San Francisco. The fire department responded to at least 20 reports of people stuck in downtown elevators.

During the height of the outage, California Pacific Medical Center forced to go on backup power and shut down its operating rooms.

The outage began 9:15 a.m., Anderson said. Almost immediately BART sent out an alert advising passengers of the closure at Montgomery St. Station “due to a technical problem with PG&E.” Commuters were told to take buses to their destinations in the downtown area.

The transit agency brought in a generator and parked it outside the station in an effort to get it back online. The generator was able to bring the station online at 11:32 a.m.

Map of San Francisco power outage as of 10:45 a.m. on April 21, 2017. (PG&E)

Map of San Francisco power outage as of 10:45 a.m. on April 21, 2017. (PG&E)

The Montgomery station is a key stop all BART lines coming into the city. San Francisco Muni underground lines and cable car lines were also knocked out of service.

The San Francisco Office of Emergency offices in the Fillmore District was knocked offline by the outage, officials said.

Meanwhile, the power outage caused traffic chaos on the streets of San Francisco.

Mon Alicia took to Twitter to comment: “I always thought The Big One would throw San Francisco into mass chaos. I’m learning a large scale downtown power outage does the same.”

Brandon Bradford tweeted: “Huge power outages in NYC and SF right now. In a movie people would be freaking out.”

Power was also out from San Francisco’s Union Square to the Marina District. Union Square shops were closed because of the outage. Power was also out at the Presidio.

Comments (74)
  1. illinoisatlarge says:

    California, the state that works. LOL

    1. And they want to be their own country…

  2. Let’s hope it isn’t a terror attack on the grid that some have been warning of for years. Ted Koppel even wrote a book on how vulnerable our electric grids are.

    1. And if it was a terror attack, committed by Jihadis, Ted will be the first to jump to Islam’s defense.

    2. If it is an attack, it’s most likely a trial run for something larger coming our way. What happened today was inconvenient, an attack would certainly do far worse.

  3. Get Adam Schiff on the phone. It was the Russians!

  4. Don’t worry, California has a lot of alternative energy, and it will be free for all, very soon.

  5. rpfeil2017 says:

    But this is what all the tree huggers have wished for ! Think how much less carbon is being thrown into the air now that there is no electricity. Leave it off for good, oh wait then the might start moving to other states and voting. Get that grid up ASAP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Jerry Walker says:

    SF is getting a mild taste of what a small North Korean nuke can do with an air burst hundred of miles off the CA coast.

  7. I just ended up stuck on a subway train in NYC for hours this morning because of our own power outage. Very odd for that to happen in two major cities around the same time.

  8. It figures traffic would come to a standstill in San Francisco because of no traffic lights. Where I live, we don’t even have STOP or other traffic signs, and we have few problems. The difference? Liberals are narcissists that can’t understand how to take turns or share.

  9. But putting out the fire with CO2 will release that toxic environmental warming gas. Don’t do it! That fire department is going to kill the clean air that we all share.

  10. Power goes out in New York City AND San Francisco SIMULTANEOUSLY and nobody thinks its odd.. #CyberAttack

  11. This is KARMA for your sanctuary city policies! I hope Silicon Valley is affected.

  12. Mike Arvand says:

    This, is how the vaunted hippie enviro nazis want things. Dark.
    Bet one of those new power plants would have come in handy right about now, wouldn’t it.

  13. Want to know peoples genuine character? Watch how they behave behind the wheel during a power outage at a 4 way intersection.

  14. Kim Jong Un warned us about this!! He probably hired an unemployed starlet to throw firebombs into the power station, thinking it was a “prank”.

  15. Looks like more than brains got fried on 4/20 day

  16. As for traffic jams, where did you get your license? Walmart.

    Simple treat every intersection with a malfunctioning light as a 4 way stop. It’s the law by the way.

  17. Dan Tiede says:

    Awesome. Give the granola flakes a taste of the ‘carbon neutral’ life.

  18. Lenny Caputo says:

    Enjoy 3rd world status. As a sanctuary city you will NOT get 1 Federal Cent.

  19. Steve Grant says:

    Frisco tree huggers haven’t gone “wind & solar” by now? Slackers.

  20. The last city on earth you’d want to be during something like this. I’m sure the liberals are helpful and respectful….NOT. We here in CA do have money for: $180 Billion bullet train to nowhere, $40 million for smelt and salmon regeneration as we release every drop of rainfall from winter to revive riverbeds, and my personal favorite, all the illegals that cost each person in CA $4,850 per year.

  21. rytwinger says:

    Frisco deserves to lose power for a decade, just for dropping Nasty Piglosi on America all these years alone….

  22. Bob LeGlob says:

    “…no reports of major injuries during the outage.” so people can actually work things out themselves. hmmmm.

  23. Watch now, the Russian narrative will pop up ….