San Francisco power outage hits financial hub for hours

By Alexandria Sage

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A power outage hit about 90,000 customers on Friday morning in San Francisco, closing shops and snarling traffic in the city’s technology and finance center as a large swath of the financial district lost electricity.

The utility PG&E Corp reported a fire at a San Francisco substation and a series of outages began affecting the city shortly after 9 a.m. (noon ET/1600 GMT). By 2 p.m., an hour after the company said it hoped to restore power to most customers, nearly 74,000 were still without electricity, the utility’s online outage map showed.

The power cut did not affect San Francisco International Airport, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said through a spokesperson that the agency had not received any reports indicating that the outage was related to any security or terrorism incident. The spokesperson requested anonymity, citing department policy.

Office workers spilled onto city streets in the heart of the business district, milling about as traffic piled up while stoplights were out. Elevators stopped in tall buildings and smoke lingered for hours after San Francisco firefighters quickly extinguished the fire at the downtown substation.

King Lip, chief investment officer at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco, said his offices had been hit.

“It’s pretty big, seems like half the city has no power,” he said. “We were in the middle of a trade.”

Wells Fargo & Co closed 13 bank branches and four office buildings, while the New York Stock Exchange said its ARCA options trading floor in San Francisco was briefly unavailable because of the power outage.

For more than two hours, trains streamed through the Montgomery Street station as the outage prevented them from stopping until backup generators came on line at about 11:30 a.m., Bay Area Rapid Transit said. Shopkeepers in the financial district sat in darkened stores, bereft of customers.

At Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in the Nob Hill neighborhood, all non-essential appointments and procedures had been canceled, spokeswoman Blair Holloway said. Two of four campuses of Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center were also impacted by the outage, spokesman Dean Fryer said. Elective surgeries were canceled and emergency patients were directed to other hospitals, Fryer said.

The outage affected central and northern parts of the city, according to the city’s Department of Emergency Management.

At the salad bar chain MIXT downtown, cashiers took credit card payments using old-fashioned paper imprints, as customers lined up to eat in the dim natural light.

“Old school,” commented patron Ben Fackler. “I haven’t seen that in forever.”

(Writing by Peter Henderson and Sharon Bernstein; Additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos in New York, Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif., Tom James in Seattle, Heather Somerville in San Francisco, Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Noel Randewich in San Francisco; editing by Mary Milliken and Marguerita…

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