LIVERMORE (KPIX 5) – A power surge in Livermore early Tuesday saved thousands of appliances and likely caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, as it impacted 521 homes.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said it happened around midnight Monday night into Tuesday morning when a palm frond falling across a high voltage distribution line and a lower voltage transmission line at Elaine Avenue and Holmes Street in Livermore.
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It caused a power surge so powerful it blew the meters off houses and fried electronics.
“I had the TV on and I literally can see the smoke and sparks flying. It was like a big fire, poof, and then it was over. Complete darkness. It was scary, ”said Christy Garcia, one of the impacted homeowners.
“Our dishwasher we just bought is like completely destroyed, coffee maker, Xbox, monitors are fried,” Garcia recalled.
Neighbors also said they lost solar panels, pool pumps, hot tubs, TVs, computers and other small electronics, garage door openers, kitchen appliances, HVAC systems, sprinkler controllers – basically anything that was plugged in when the surge hit.
“How do you have that much electricity going through your house at one time to cause that much damage?” Garcia wants to know.
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“We are extremely busy right now. Non-stop calls, ”said Tim Agront, is one of the project managers for Five or Free, a local Livermore electrical company.
Agront told KPIX 5 that they have worked on 36 houses on Tuesday and 43 houses on Wednesday.
“Cost of repairs that I’ve seen, probably on the high end, would be at least up to $ 40,000- $ 50,000 and that’s just in appliances alone,” he says.
PG&E said impacted homeowners can file a claim on their website but told KPIX 5 in a statement that “Although the palm tree was not in PG & Es right of way and we are not responsible for its maintenance, we will review and consider each claim.”
Agront said one way to prevent something like this from damaging electronics in your home is to have a whole house surge protector installed or ensure all electronics are plugged into strip surge protectors before they’re plugged into the wall.
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Claims with PG&E can be filed by calling the utility’s claims department at (415) 973-4548 or online at www.pge.com/claims. Each household can only file one claim per incident, so people need to make sure they check everything in their homes before filing the claim.