July 25, 2007 / 3:08 AM / 12 years ago

San Francisco power outage knocks out Web sites

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Sporadic power failures cascaded across San Francisco for two hours on Tuesday, causing minor disruptions in the downtown business district and knocking out major Web sites including Craigslist.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in an undated file photo. Sporadic power failures cascaded across San Francisco for two hours on Tuesday, causing minor disruptions in the downtown business district and knocking out major Web sites including Craigslist. REUTERS/Stringer

Power was restored to most city residents by 3:30 p.m. PDT, according to Joe Molica, spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric Co., owned by PG&E Corp. and the main utility in the city.

About 40,000 electricity customers in San Francisco and an area south of the city were left temporarily in the dark.

But a power failure at a 227,000-square-foot data center in downtown San Francisco knocked out a variety of popular Web sites with ties to the city, including Craigslist, the world’s seventh most popular English-language online destination.

Also hit were TypePad, which plays host to many popular blogs; Technorati, the top blog search site; virtual world site Second Life; Yelp, a local entertainment review site; and Gamespot, a gaming site owned by CNET Networks Inc..

A Second Life employee responded on the company’s official blog to complaints it had not done enough to secure the site against outages by noting how widespread the problems were for Web firms concentrated in the city’s South of Market district.

“Hey everyone — we thank you for your passion and caring so much that you want to be in Second Life,” the employee wrote. “I’d just like to remind you that this isn’t a Second Life-specific problem. Major Web sites were affected too!”


Many sites recovered within several hours, but access to millions of listings of jobs, housing, would-be romantic partners and other services on Craigslist’s 450 city sites was out for more than five hours after power was restored.

Chief Executive Jim Buckmaster had said company technicians were working to restore Craigslist database software but that he had no estimate for when full service would be restored.

Over the course of Tuesday evening, Craigslist services were progressively restored, and the global network of local sites was largely back to normal by midnight California time.

Molica said the breakdown was triggered by a fault in PG&E’s underground electric system, but the utility did not know what caused the problem and was investigating. Five separate short power outages occurred in a two-hour period.

Breakers opened and did not shut when they were supposed to, which caused fluctuations in the power flow that interrupted the power supply, Molica said. Some earlier reports said the cause of the outage was an underground explosion on Mission Street, but PG&E later denied this.

Bay Area Rapid Transit commuter trains moved during the power outage, although some of the lights in underground stations were off, a BART spokesman said.

The city’s famous cable cars shut were disrupted as well as electric bus services in the North Beach and Chinatown tourist neighborhoods and downtown due to power line failure, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Municipal Railway said.

Several hours after power was restored, San Francisco Giants baseball slugger Barry Bonds again pursued the baseball home run record of 755 runs in a local stadium affected by the outage. He is three home runs short of breaking the record.

Additional reporting by Philipp Gollner and Jim Christie in San Francisco, Bernie Woodall in Los Angeles and Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington D.C.

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