Reasons for outages demanded

Three power outages in a five-week span affecting more than 7,000 Burlingame customers each time is one reason residents are demanding answers from Pacific Gas and Electric.

A citizens group is meeting with the utility company and city staff to discuss the issues and possible solutions at the end of this month.

“Something is wrong with a system that is not more tolerant to ducks or seagulls,” said Vice Mayor Terry Nagel, who formed the group Burlingame Unwilling to Live with Blackouts, or BULB, in 2001. “I grew up on the East Coast. We never had outages like this. I don’t understand why the power goes out on perfectly sunny days.”

Nagel said the meeting is closed to the public.

He said in the winter of 2002-03, Burlingame residents would be victims of repeated losses of power that ranged from mere seconds to hours.

She said the utility company was receptive and fixed the problems, which included a new circuit in the city to improve reliability and distribution of power.

But over a five-week period stretching from March to May, three outages wiped power to more than 7,000 customers. One time, the outage even closed U.S. Highway 101 during repairs.

The first outage occurred March 29 at 7:50 a.m. It affected 7,441 customers and was reportedly caused by an open circuit breaker. It took 53 minutes for crews to turn the power on.

The second happened April 2 at 7:11 a.m. It was caused by a seagull that had run in to a primary line. During the repair Highway 101 was closed while wires were replaced. More than 3½ hours went by before power was fully restored. An estimated 7,442 customers were affected.

The third major incident that affected 7,444 customers happened May 1 at 6 a.m. A duck had reportedly struck another line, disrupting service for nearly 90 minutes.

Nagel’s website logged more than 20 outages in the city since January.

PG&E spokesman Matt Nauman said all the incidents affected the same circuit, but did not know if there were major improvement plans for them.

“There are measures we can take, such as wires and bird protection around equipment,” he said. “We are targeting circuit improvements throughout our territory, but I don’t know it is on the Peninsula.”

Burlingame resident Theresa Dunne, 40, said power service has improved over the past 18 months, but that wasn’t always the case.

“If you sneezed, the lights would go out,” she said. “You would go to bed not knowing if your alarm would wake you up.”

Cutting power

Three recent outages have affected a major portion of Burlingame.

Date: March 29
Customers: 7,441
Time to restore power: 53 minutes

Date: April 2
Customers: 7,442
Time to restore power: 3½ hours

Date: May 1
Customers: 7,444
Time to restore power: 89 minutes

Source: BULB and PG&E

‘King Tides’ give San Francisco a watery glimpse of its future

City seeks solutions as coastal flooding could become the new normal

By Jessica Wolfrom
Dire water warnings confront San Francisco and beyond

‘We will face challenges that I don’t think modern California has ever really seen before’

By Jessica Wolfrom
Debate over $150 million San Francisco school district windfall

‘We’re looking at the ways to boost morale’

By Ida Mojadad