Explosions and electricity outage caused by small bird that
landed on power pole fuse
Gilroy – More than 5,000 residents and businesses lost power Thursday night for about 90 minutes after a series of explosions on Alexander Street outside Wells Fargo Bank sent sparks across 10th Street and dropping power lines onto the road.
A bright white flash could be seen across west Gilroy and the explosions heard from at least a mile away. Without traffic lights, vehicles were backed up along 10th Street over Pacheco Pass. An occasional angry motorist shouted obscenities into the darkness.
“We were in the Taco Bell eating and you could see the sparks,” said Derick Clemmons. “You could feel the convulsion. We thought someone hit a pole. The second explosion looked like it was behind the bank.”
Witnesses believed there may have been at least three explosions with the first starting shortly before 6pm. Employees of Orchard Supply Hardware thought the problems began behind their store.
“From what I understand they heard it from the back,” said cashier Kelly Coolidge. “The power went out first. Something blew first to get that one to blow,” she said pointing to pole closest to Tenth Street.
Customers were forced to leave their items at the register and employees worked to set up a generator inside.
Gilroy firefighters directed traffic as the Gilroy Police Department secured the block so passersby wouldn’t get in harms way crossing live wires.
One man got out of his car and removed the wires that had fallen onto his car with his hands. He was not hurt and insisted he was an electrician and knew the wires were dead, police said.
The Gilroy High School soccer team was about one minute into their season opener when the field went dark and what looked like lightening flashed across the sky.
“Boom! The lights went out and the next thing you know you see a huge light from the east,” said coach Armando Padilla. “It looked like a scene out of a movie. I looked up (into the stands) and everyone was on their cell phones. I almost almost thought it was a prank … It looked like every one had glow sticks.”
The only lights on were the headlights of cars and the flashing red and white of emergency crews. The streets were eerily dark. Looking south down Alexander Street one could not see anything but blackness.
One truck from PG&E arrived at 7pm.
Fire officials showed the worker what they believe caused the outage.
“A dead bird caused all the problems in Gilroy,” Captain Art Amaro laughed pointing to a tiny black bird with singed feathers. “There’s a fuse (box) – it got up there. A bird knocked out Gilroy.”
However, PG&E representatives could not confirm the exact cause of the outage.
“We don’t know why the lines went down,” said spokesperson David Eisenhauer. “At about 8pm the bulk of power went back on.”
Eisenhauer said it was possible the bird caused the a power surge leading to the explosions.
Assistant manager of the Check into Cash Aida Rubio was forced to close early.
“I had to close my store. I wanted to come back to the bank because I had to deposit the money for the day,” she said. “What am I going to do? I’m stuck.”
She heard kids next door at the pizza shop screaming to each other in the blackout.
“I thought, ‘Did somebody crash into a power line or something? What is that, fireworks?'” she said. “I was by myself, I was scared.”
As of press time the official cause and exact location of the outage was still unknown.
About 4,400 Berkeley residents lost power Thursday after a raccoon got up into the power lines.