Oakland Airport in California’s Bay Area halted flights on Sunday evening following a fire at a Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) electrical substation that has left more than 9,000 customers still in the dark.
Travelers were stuck standing in long lines as security shut down for hours. Others crowded at their gates and at baggage claim waiting for power to be restored. The Bay Area Rapid Transit restricted service to and from the airport for several hours.
“Power outage apparently, all of Oakland Airport at a standstill,” reported digital media producer Matt Ashlock on Twitter. “No one getting thru security for going on almost an hour now.”
“TSA Agents saying this has never happened before,” he added. “Saying no flights are gonna leave while it’s like this.”
Power outage apparently, all of Oakland Airport at a standstill. No one getting thru security for going on almost an hour now.
TSA Agents saying this has never happened before. Saying no flights are gonna leave while it’s like this.
No timetable for a fix. pic.twitter.com/d4Fq6Nt5DW
— matt ashlock (@matt_ashlock) February 19, 2023
“Approximately about one o’clock this afternoon we were called for a fire coming from inside the PG&E yard,” an Oakland Fire Department battalion chief told the press just after 3 p.m. “We were able to gain access into the PG&E yard and found that there was a transformer actively burning inside the yard.”
The fire at the substation located at 50th x Coliseum is now out, as of 230PM. Please check the PG&E outage map at https://t.co/Cd7qhZjkMo for current status updates and timelines for restoration. There is no Hazmat concern or evacuations necessary. No further updates. pic.twitter.com/SPm6kTTTUt
— Oakland Fire Department (CA) (@OaklandFireCA) February 19, 2023
The flames caused a “domino effect,” initially plunging “roughly 50,000 residents and customers without power” in Oakland and Alameda, the official said.
“PG&E says they have to wait to be able to really look at all the equipment to be able to realize and try to figure out what the cause of the fire was,” he said.
PG&E corporate relations representative Tamar Sarkissian took to Twitter and reported that the company was aware of the situation.
“We are aware of the large outage in Oakland impacting approximately 50,000 customers,” she wrote. “We are currently investigating the details and will provide more information on the timing of restoration as soon as we can.”
#Oakland: We are aware of the large outage in Oakland impacting approximately 50,000 customers. We are currently investigating the details and will provide more information on the timing of restoration as soon as we can.
— Tamar Sarkissian (@PGE_Tamar) February 19, 2023
Four hours later, power had been restored to 20,000 customers.
“Some customers may remain w/o power for up to 12 hours as we work to replace the transformer,” she informed residents.
#Oakland: We have restored approx. 20k customers – we are working safely and quickly as possible to restore remaining customers. Some customers may remain w/o power for up to 12 hours as we work to replace the transformer. https://t.co/sYO4bD3FLU.
— Tamar Sarkissian (@PGE_Tamar) February 20, 2023
The Oakland fire follows a string of attacks across America on power substations.
As BizPac Review reported, on Christmas, burglars “vandalized” four power stations in Northwest Washington.
Power substations in Washington state ‘vandalized’ on Christmas, thousands lose electricity https://t.co/8eFASBNJmi pic.twitter.com/Z3LpU4XO54
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) December 27, 2022
“Over the last three months, at least nine substations spanning North Carolina, Washington, and Oregon have cut power to thousands of customers,” the Daily Mail reports. “The attacks are worrisome for those in states and areas where a lack of power could turn deadly.”
“Between Washington and Oregon, there were six attacks on substations between mid-November and December in 2022,” the outlet states.
In December, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered the North American Reliability Corp. (NERC), which is in charge of developing standards for grid reliability, “to consider requiring physical risk assessments for more bulk-power transmission stations, substations and associated primary control centers,” according to UtilityDive.com.
“It is important that we fully and clearly review the effectiveness of our existing physical security standard to determine whether additional improvements are necessary to safeguard the bulk power system,” FERC Chairman Richard Glick said at the time.
It is unclear at this time if the Oakland substation fire was intentionally set.
According to the Daily Mail, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Arizona have proposed legislation in recent weeks that “would require 24-hour security at the power stations, or harsh penalties for attacks.”
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