Human error blamed in Marin County power outage

While there were numerous power outages in the Bay Area late Thursday night, Marin County was hit the hardest got hit the hardest, but not for hours on end. 

The outage began at the Ignacio Substation and instantly spread to 61,000 homes and businesses that lost power. The Ignacio Substation supplies energy to pretty much every corner of Marin County's 828 square miles. 

Amazingly, two residents told KTVU that their homes never lost power.  

"Nothing. I'm right here in Marinwood and everything was good. Usually, we get hit but this time, nothing at all," said Marin resident Dan Sauter. 

Diane Raymundo said, "Nothing. We were sitting outside at 11 o'clock You know, all the garden lights were on, pool lights were on." 

But, the Marin County Sheriff's Office received plenty of calls— about 69 911 calls and 217 non-emergency calls. That's about five to six times normal call volumes. 

"We did hold over some staff to help out with the amount of emergency and non-emergency calls we were getting," said Marin County Sheriff Deputy and Spokesman Sergeant Brenton Schneider. 

He said one emergency call was from someone who had a medical device that had insufficient backup power. 

"So, our 911 dispatchers took that information and determined they needed to send a fire truck and an ambulance out to the residence and they did so to help them get either that situation mitigated or if they needed to be transported to the hospital, they would be there to do that," said Brenton.

But, it was after the power came back on that the workload really ramped up. 

"A lot of times it will trigger peoples' burglar alarms, fire alarms, water flow alarms and we get inundated with calls," the sergeant said. "That requires us to check each one of those to make sure that that there isn't an actual crime that's taking place and then, in addition to that, you have traffic signals that are out. We sent deputies last night to help out the highway patrol."

An apologetic PG&E spokesperson said it was a matter of simple human error. 

"The protocols and the protective measures that we were putting in place failed; didn't work," said Deanna Contreras. "So, those protective measures are there to keep the power on, the lights on and because they didn't work, the power went out." 

The electric company did not have to go out and inspect every inch of every line in the affected area because the outage wasn't caused by storm damage nor was it a Public Safety Power Shutoff. 

"We worked safely and quickly as possible to restore everyone within 2 1/2 hours by 1:30 a.m.," Contreras said.