California Storm Blackouts Plunge Silicon Valley into Darkness

By David R. Baker | March 15, 2023

Utility workers raced to restore power to parts of central California, after the latest atmospheric river struck the state with heavy rain and blasting winds, plunging parts of Silicon Valley into darkness.

Falling trees took down power lines and blocked roads, leaving about 193,000 homes and businesses without electricity by 4:30 a.m. local time, according to the website.

“The rain will slowly end over California overnight Wednesday,” the National Weather Service said in a statement, adding that then it will drench parts of the Southwest. “The associated heavy rain will create mainly localized areas of flash flooding, with urban areas, roads, small streams, and burn scars the most vulnerable.”

The latest storm arrived just days after another one flooded the Central Coast town of Pajaro and blanketed most of the state, with much of the disruption focused on areas that bore the brunt of the last deluge, including the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco. A PG&E Corp. map of power outages showed blackouts across mountain communities as well as the nearby Silicon Valley cities of Sunnyvale, Cupertino and Saratoga.

High winds on Tuesday forced a temporary ground stop at San Francisco International Airport, with planes kept at their gates or on the tarmac. And police closed off part of busy California Street in downtown San Francisco after glass fell from one of the city’s largest buildings, 555 California, formerly known as the Bank of America Center.

Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday evening added three more counties to a list of 40 areas covered by a state of emergency declaration following recent storms and flooding.

California is still in an active period and rain could begin again early next week when another atmospheric river will strike, according to Marc Chenard, a senior branch forecaster with the US Weather Prediction Center.

“It is a little early to say what the magnitude of the system will be,” he said. It could come in colder than the last two, which would mean more snow in the mountains, Chenard said.

Most of the heaviest rain is now in the area south of Los Angeles, he added. It will be moving east by this afternoon.

–With assistance from Sybilla Gross, Brian K. Sullivan and Brian Wingfield.

Top photo: Trucks driving through a flooded street in Pajaro, California, on March 14. Photographer: Jennifer Cain/AFP/Getty Images

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