A series of sporadic power outages brought elevators and traffic to a screeching halt in Walnut Creek Tuesday as city officials and first responders scrambled to keep pace. The cause? Balloons.
Wayward mylar balloons apparently made contact with high tension wires at a local substation, short-circuiting the grid supplying power to the city, PG&E officials said early Tuesday afternoon. The resulting outages lasted as little as 20 minutes to an hour or more. NEWS24-680 started receiving phone calls about uncontrolled intersections and tripped fire alarms shortly after noon, with readers from various parts of the city reported being left in the dark.
“I’m rolling along and all of a sudden the traffic lights go out,” said Deena Mieves, a Concord resident in town to do a little shopping. “We all just kind of stopped and looked at each other (at the intersection) and then a guy started directing things, waving people through…”
Outages were reported downtown, in the neighborhoods surrounding John Muir Hospital, and other random locations around town. A reported fire atop the Walnut Creek Marriott turned out to be caused by a faulty generator and did not appear to be connected to the power interruption. Hotel guests were briefly evacuated as a precaution.
Contra Costa County Fire Protection District firefighters were called to extricate people trapped in a downtown elevator and checked out fire alarms triggered by the outage. Full power was restored by the evening commute, according to PG&E spokesmen.