The Tale of Two Cities - Massive Power Outage

We had a major power outage through a big swath of Silicon Valley the past week. The Culprits:

  • Wind (20-35mph with 50mph gusts)
  • Previous 100-year record rainstorms
  • Kamikaze trees - over 50 uprooted mature trees in just two cities (Menlo Park and Atherton, with combined population of 40,000 - many more in other towns).
  • Erratic drivers - three power poles taken out by 2 drivers in the same two towns.
  • One tree took out a high voltage distribution (not transmission) line that crossed one of the busiest highways, they had to close the highway both ways to re-rerun.

The folks affected by the highway break were out for more than 55 hours. My house was out for about 16 1/2 hours. Fortunately, we were at our beach place, so only our son and dogs bore the brunt of the issue. I should also be clear, nearby Meta/Facebook and Google HQs, which get electricity primarily from renewables kept the lights on the whole time without generators - they are close to major transmissions lines without any of the intervening trees.

Here’s what some of the Kamikaze trees looked like.

A high priority repair - lines down.

A lower priority repair - tree is leaning on power lines but has not broken them. This one is 4 blocks from my house.

A sight you’ll never see - Highway 101 (or as they say in LA, “the 101”), shut down in both directions during daytime.

Here’s a timeline of the the events I have been able to piece together. Even though Sense is supposed to be able to capture data for about 6 hours without internet, by Senses, which presumably rebooted when the power came back up, didn’t start logging data until Xfinity came back on. Maybe a rebooted device, can’t start logging until it is able to phone home !

How was your issue detected?: Complete power outage

Did you noticed any other signs of this issue around your home?: Trees down, all the neighbors texting that their power was out !

Screenshots from Sense Lab
The start - one blip, then gone an hour later.

Sense coming back online with restoration of Xfinity. I wish I could see what things looked like as they began to restore power.