A huge blackout probably caused by a fire at a PG&E substation swept through San Francisco on Friday, bringing everyday life to a virtual standstill as homes and businesses and courtrooms went dark, traffic lights stopped working, BART and Muni service slowed, and all the cable cars shut down. The power failure, which at its height affected 88,000 customers, struck just after 9 a.m. and extended through the Tenderloin and Chinatown, up Nob Hill, and into the Marina and the Presidio. While no major injuries were reported, the ordeal meant everything from lost business at shuttered shops in Union Square to minor shakeups for people briefly trapped by darkness in the bowels of downtown skyscrapers. Andrew Henry was in his 20th floor hotel room at the JW Marriott hotel in Union Square with his two sons — Isaac, 11, and Elliott, 8 — when the lights went out. The hotel’s backup generator failed, so the vacationers from Vancouver, British Columbia, took the stairs down, with glow sticks lighting the way. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. traced the problem to the failure of a circuit breaker that ignited insulation and started a fire at a substation at Larkin and Eddy streets, just north of City Hall. More than 100 parking control officers as well as police officers were deployed to control the flow through intersections as about 300 traffic lights — about a quarter of those across the city — went dark. BART’s Montgomery Station was closed for more than two hours, with trains running through the station without stopping, before the agency reopened it by using generators. All of the city’s cable cars were down, disappointing tourists on a busy Friday, as were several Muni bus lines that typically run on electricity from overhead wires, including the 30-Stockton, 45-Union/Stockton, 22-Fillmore and 24-Divisadero lines. Muni trains were still running both underground and above ground, though delays were reported because of the extensive problems with traffic lights. Nineteen schools in San Francisco were struck by the power failure, including Spring Valley Science School, Sutro Elementary, Civic Center Secondary School, Alamo Elementary, Galileo Academy of Science and Technology, and Cobb Elementary. Daisy Prado, a 23-year-old South Bay resident, said she was sitting at her desk on the 14th floor of an office building on the 200 block of Montgomery Street in the Financial District when the power suddenly dropped out. “The money is stuck in the drawer,” Italo Amaral, an employee with the Sutter Street cafe Bread and Cocoa, said after his cash register and credit card machine lost power.
Power restored in SF after blackout shuts businesses, cable cars – SFGate