Berkeley experiences citywide power outage

Pacific Gas and Electric Company/Courtesy

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Power was restored about 12:45 p.m. Monday after a citywide power outage that began about 9:35 a.m. affected approximately 16,000 Berkeley residents.

The outage was caused by an equipment failure at a PG&E substation in El Cerrito, which led to a small fire about 9:30 a.m.,  according to PG&E spokesperson Hailey Wilson. After PG&E shut down the transformer, a team of firefighters from the El Cerrito Fire Department arrived at the substation to extinguish the fire.

As many as 40,000 residents from San Pablo to Berkeley were affected by the outage, according to PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian. According to PG&E, the outage affected the city as far south as Oakland and north into the Berkeley Hills.

A group of high voltage cables from a 115,000-volt transformer — a device that adjusts electrical energy between circuits — failed, resulting in the outage, according to El Cerrito Fire Department’s Battalion Chief Michael Pigoni. The broken voltage cables sent sparks to the ground and set 15 to 20 nearby hay bales on fire.

Parts of Richmond were also impacted by the outage, while El Cerrito was unaffected, according to Pigoni.  Several street lights were without power, according to a BPD news alert, and drivers were cautioned to go slowly.

Several elevator rescues were reported on the BPD scanner, including one at 2424 Shattuck Ave.

Although trains were operational at the Downtown Berkeley BART station as of approximately 9:50 a.m., they did not make stops at the station. The BART website reported a delay at the North Berkeley station in the Fremont and Millbrae directions because of a medical emergency.

Businesses in Berkeley were negatively impacted by the power outage.

Stacey Aucella, the owner of Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt on Euclid Avenue, noticed the power had gone out about 9:40 a.m. When she called PG&E, they informed her that power would be restored about 12:30 to 12:45 p.m.

Because her frozen yogurt machines shut off as a result of the outage, Aucella lost business between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m and transported her frozen yogurt cakes to a larger freezer so they would not spoil.  She estimates that she lost approximately $200 during the outage.

“My biggest fear was — one, turning away guests,” said Aucella. “I had to do it because I couldn’t serve them anything, and the other was the spoilage of my yogurt and my yogurt cakes.”

Power was restored to all customers impacted by the outage by 1:00 p.m, according to Wilson.

Check back here for updates.

Contact Adrienne Shih and Cassandra Vogel at [email protected].Cassandra Vogel covers schools and communities. Contact her at [email protected].