Power to the people, California style

My office is currently suffering our second power outage of the year. Earlier this year, a plane carrying Tesla employees crashed into power lines, knocking out power to much of Palo Alto. Yesterday, a transformer in our office park failed, killing power to our building and the one next door. Incredibly, 18 hours later, we’re still without power! People here delight in looking down their noses at places like Athens, Alabama or Houma, Louisiana, but certainly I was never without electricity for longer than an hour or two, even during weather that would make the average Californian run for shelter.

Interestingly, outages seem to be a Palo Alto theme: there have been several other notable outages, and at least one other company has moved to neighboring Mountain View to get more reliable electric service.

Our critical servers are protected with UPS systems, but those only help provide time for a clean shutdown, not for ongoing operations. Our landlords arranged for a 1-megawatt diesel generator to tide us over; it’s set up in the parking lot but isn’t yet providing power to the building. The utility estimates that it will take two or three days to make the necessary repairs and get us back online. In the meantime, I have a fully-charged laptop and a mostly-charged MiFi, so at least I can get a few things done.

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