After unplanned day off, M-A resumes normal schedule today

Troubles replacing a power pole disabled electrical power longer than expected

If it had been December in a snow-belt community instead of September in Atherton, Monday (Sept. 28) at Menlo-Atherton High School might have been called a snow day: an unexpected vacation from school.

The students did have the day off because, with the exception of the small gymnasium on the campus, M-A had no electrical power, Principal Simone Rick-Kennel told the Almanac.

Power has since been restored, Ms. Rick-Kennel said, and classes will resume Tuesday as usual. The school did hold some athletic practices on Monday, as well as a previously scheduled get-together on how to apply to the University of California, Ms. Rick-Kennel said.

The outage had been planned, but it wasn't supposed to unfold as it did. A crew from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. set to work on Sunday morning, Sept. 27, to replace a wooden pole as part of a preventive maintenance program ahead of winter storms, PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian said. The Sunday outage began at 7 a.m. and was supposed end at 3 p.m., she said.

The crew had "one complication after another" in replacing the pole, Ms. Rick-Kennel said, recalling her conversations with the PG&E crew. At midnight, the crew determined that it needed a high-voltage specialist, she said.

At 6 a.m. on Monday, the school was still dark and it was unclear when power would be restored, she said. After consulting with administrators at the Sequoia Union High School District, "We went with the very unfortunate and tough decision to close school for the day," Ms. Rick-Kennel said.

Power came back intermittently around 9 a.m., she said. "It was a situation that was supposed to be routine -- replacing a power pole -- and it turned into one unplanned issue after another," she said.

Power was restored at around 10:30 a.m., Ms. Sarkissian said. One complication: The crew had not foreseen that the pole was set in concrete, she said.

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16 people like this
Posted by Saw it coming
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 28, 2015 at 10:16 pm

Though it was only 10AM on Sunday, I saw the pace of work on RIngwood Ave and immediately told my pals, "They're not going to finish before the start of school". I wonder if a utility company owned by the municipality would have considered the risk to Menlo-Atherton's school day and either started work on Saturday or cancelled the upgrade when they realized it might be problematic.

In their defense, how could they have known about the need for a high voltage specialist? Please remember that they're only the power utility and might not know much about voltage, utility poles, planning, etc. I'd love to know exactly when they noticed the concrete. Why didn't they check in advance? Is the distinction between dirt and concrete too technically complex?

Sorry, they are more correctly the 'Investor-Owned Power Utility'. That distinction might explain a great deal about PG&E's performance. It certainly explains why PG&E spent $46 million to support a ballot initiative in 2010 that would have made it more difficult for municipalities to start or expand their own local utilities. That type of shameful and underhanded lobbying/bullying by PG&E is probably unsurprising, since they have so much to fear from competition.

Is PG&E aware that an unscheduled day without classes for two-thousand adolescents is actually a safety hazard? Given PG&E's poor record of safety and service, they're probably well aware of the risks to the public and simply don't care at all.

2 people like this
Posted by Kellye
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 29, 2015 at 1:00 pm

I thought M-A had generators, what ever happened to that back up plan?

7 people like this
Posted by Memories
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 29, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Hmmm... Back in the day, an unscheduled day off from high school would have resulted in lots of pot smoking and alcohol consumption, a smattering of unplanned pregnancies, TV binging, and many happy teens (at least briefly).

Now? not so sure.

6 people like this
Posted by Give'em a break
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 29, 2015 at 1:20 pm

"Saw It Coming" probably doesn't realize how much PG&E linepeople risk their lives each day trying to keep our elecricity on and troubleshoot each and every problem that arise. Would like to see "Saw It Coming" trade jobs for half a day and see long how they last climbing poles, working with hot wires in the blazing sun, pouring rain, high wind or bitter cold, plus dealing with customers who complain 24/7. Whenever power is restored anywhere, does anyone say "thanks" to PG&E? I doubt it.

Like this comment
Posted by MA Grad 2009
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:52 pm

I feel like this has been done before. Wasn't there a similar incident in May, 2009, when there was a power outage or something and the kids stayed home from school for half a day?...oh wait. That was just a bunch of teenagers outsmarting a whole administration. That's right.

Like this comment
Posted by Mata Usi
a resident of another community
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Did dey just do da ting dat class of 09 did? Isn't dat like...plagiarism, or sumting?

Like this comment
Posted by MP WatchDog
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 30, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Did somebody check with the authorities about the legitimacy of the power outage this time? Or are we repeating history from 2009?

Link below:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by PG&E history
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Sep 30, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Let's not forget that PG&E killed a few people and wiped not one, but THREE city blocks off the face of the earth in San Bruno in 2010.

But I will add that 'Saw It Coming' is being a little inconsiderate. After all, Empathic Failure is the most frustrating mental condition a family member has to deal with.

Also, that MA Prank was pretty hysterical when it happened.

2 people like this
Posted by Didn't see it coming
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 30, 2015 at 8:14 pm

I wish PG&E hadn't risked the lives of linemen who had to work around the clock to restore service. Who scheduled that Sunday utility pole replacement? And why couldn't they simply check the condition of the pole in advance? Bad management.

Imagine needlessly endangering the lives of those workers! Don't they realize that those workers risk their lives every day? And their managers probably don't even thank them! I'll be those fatcats would never trade jobs with the linemen who work in the bitter, bitter cold we constantly experience.

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