A power cut in San Francisco that trapped people in lifts and left tens of thousands of others in the dark was caused by a massive failure of a circuit breaker that set off a fire at a power sub-station. Just after 5pm local time on Friday, Pacific Gas & Electric said power had been restored to all 90,000 customers who lost it in the city’s Financial District and other areas.
Spokesman Barry Anderson said the equipment failed before a planned repair. He said the sub-station was to be part of a 100 million-dollar (£78m) upgrade of the power system. The Fire Department said it responded to more than 100 calls for service, including 20 stuck lifts with people inside.
At hospitals, surgeries were disrupted briefly but no problems were reported because back-up generators kicked in, mayor Ed Lee said. “The best news of all was no injuries were associated with this incident,” fire chief Joanne Hayes-White said.
No traffic accidents were reported and officials thanked motorists for driving so cautiously during the blackout. People in the city of 850,000 people were generally courteous to each another. The city’s iconic cable cars were taken out of service as a precaution since street lights were not operating on large parts of their routes.
The blackout initially closed the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency’s central Montgomery Station.
People used the lights of their mobile phones to walk through the darkened station before service was restored.
Later, people milled on pavements, controllers directed traffic manually, and shops were dark.
Some buildings had power, others did not. ATM screens were blank and the city’s famed cable cars were shut down for hours.
People were confused about what was going on and what to do, said Pam Martinez, a 25-year-old San Francisco resident and software engineer who was on a train when she heard the announcement that her destination station was closed.
“Even crossing the street was chaotic because the streetlights don’t work and there’s a few ambulances trying to go through the crowds,” she said. “It’s pretty crazy.” Patricio Herrera sat glumly in his darkened restaurant, Ziggy’s Burgers, at what should have been a busy lunch hour full of people hungry for his freshly ground hamburgers.
“We have lost everything today,” said Mr Herrera, the store’s consulting chef and manager. Employees at a Starbucks gave away cups of iced and hot coffee in the darkened shop. A worker said that was better than letting the coffee go to waste.
Many of those affected used social media to vent their frustrations or post celebratory memes about getting off work early to play. Police chief William Scott said officers were working to clear traffic as quickly as possible, but in the meantime people should just relax.
“Take advantage of this beautiful day. See the city and enjoy the restaurants, enjoy the parks and whatnot until we get traffic back to normalcy,” he said.