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Harsh weather causes power outages across Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park

Photo by Henry Liu

Fallen trees and harsh weather conditions from Feb. 21-24 caused power outages throughout Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. According to PG&E, the winter storm could cause more outages in the Bay Area.

Although most power outages were resolved by Feb. 24, freshman Max Soparkar said issues related to the outages continue to pose problems.

“The power has been out more than once in the past week, and I had to reset my clock multiple times,” Soparkar said. “(My) Wi-Fi has been having a lot of problems because of (the power outages).”

With trees cleared and power restored to 4,000 PG&E customers in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park by 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23, Highway 101 has since been reopened to traffic after an initial closure on Feb. 23. 

The Nixon and Escondido elementary schools resumed classes on Thursday after power outages forced the schools to shut down for a day. Students in the Ravenswood School District in East Palo Alto returned to classes on Friday, Feb. 24, after roughly 48 hours of power outages. 

History teacher and East Palo Alto resident Grant Blackburn said the power outages lasted over two days before PG&E fixed the problem.

“I got a notice around 2:20 p.m. on Tuesday when the wind storms were happening that I had lost my power,” Blackburn said. “When we went home on Thursday, the power finally came in at 8 p.m.”

Blackburn also said the prolonged outages meant refrigerators and freezers could not run to prevent food from spoiling.

“Our fridge and freezer had been without power now for two and a half days,” Blackburn said. “(My wife) had to drive to Mountain View to find a Safeway that had bags of ice and put those bags of ice in the freezer and the fridge. Before she left to get the bags of ice, we both went and threw a bunch of stuff out.”

Several thousands of people across Palo Alto, Stanford and Menlo Park experienced power outages on Tuesday according to the Palo Alto Utilities Department, including a brief 25-minute outage in Midtown Palo Alto affecting 3,380 people and a four-hour outage in the Leland Manor neighborhood affecting 54 people. 

Xiaomei Zhang, a Palo Alto resident and Paly parent, said extra precautions were necessary to get through the night without power. 

“(At 4 p.m.), the power went out,” Zhang said. “Then I went to the garage to get the emergency supplies and camping supplies out. The lighter would not autostart so I (had) to use the match to cook dinner.”

Other weather problems closed roads for the El Camino Real underpass and parts of Page Mill Road due to flooding and snow, respectively. 

With the outages causing significant problems for many families, Blackburn said he considered himself fortunate to be able to get through the outages.

“We’re lucky that we have camping equipment, a fireplace, a gas stove, a gas water heater so we could make do,” Blackburn said. “There are some families that live in this area (who) lost more food than we did, and the ones that have babies have to spend money staying at a hotel. There are some people who couldn’t afford to do these things.”

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Henry Liu
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