San Francisco power outage snarls traffic, closes businesses

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People stand outside their office building in the Financial District after a power outage Friday, April 21, 2017, in San Francisco.

Janie Har, AP

SAN FRANCISCO — A power outage struck a wide area of San Francisco on Friday, blacking out utility customers, snarling traffic as intersection signals went dark and stopping the famed cable cars for a time.

Pacific Gas & Electric crews were assessing the problem and there was no immediate estimate for when electricity would be fully restored. 

Firefighters and utility crews responded to a smoky fire at a substation, and the utility told CBS San Francisco it was the “primary source” of the outage.

“Insulation is still smoldering,” a San Francisco Fire Department spokesman told the station. “We are trying to cool it, but we need to bring in our CO2 unit to assist us. We have been using dry chemicals to put out the flames, but it’s still hot and keeps reigniting.”

The city’s Department of Emergency Management said the outages were concentrated in the northern part of San Francisco. The fire department was responding to numerous reports of people stuck in downtown elevators.

The outage affected the Financial District, including Bay Area Rapid Transit’s downtown Montgomery Station.

People used the lights of their cellphones to walk through the darkened station before BART stopped service there.

Nearly 100,000 customers were without power in the city, CBS San Francisco reports. The city has a population of about 850,000.

California Pacific Medical Center was on backup power and had been forced to shut down its operating rooms.    

Residents milled on sidewalks, controllers directed traffic manually, and shops were dark. Some buildings had power, others did not. ATM screens were blank.

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The Montgomery Bay Area Rapid Transit station is dark following a power outage Friday, April 21, 2017, in San Francisco. A wide area of San Francisco has been hit by a power outage. The blackout hit at midmorning Friday in the Financial District and other areas. 

Jocelyn Gecker, AP

Susan Dang, a manager of a doughnut and Vietnamese sandwich shop, said they would have to close unless they could get a generator.

“If there’s no power, I let my boss know already,” she said.

Employees at a Starbucks were giving out cups of iced and hot coffee in the darkened shop. A worker said that was better than letting the coffee go to waste.

Brent Chapman, who works in billing and reporting for First Republic Bank, told his team to go home after huddling on a sidewalk and waiting for word of when power would be restored.

His team had been ready to send out a finished project Friday, one they’d been working on for six months, after some had pulled an all-nighter.

“It’s brutal. This is seriously the worst possible time that this could have happened,” he said. “I do not want to leave. I want to stay and get this done.”

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A fire truck at top left and other traffic try to make their way around a pair of idled cablecars on California Street after a large power outage Friday, April 21, 2017, in San Francisco.

Eric Risberg, AP

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: CBS News – United States

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