Gavilan College campus in Gilroy. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Gavilan College campus in Gilroy. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Much of the Gavilan College campus in Gilroy was shut down on Aug. 30 due to a power failure which lasted from 5:15 a.m. until around 1 p.m., according to Jan Bernstein Chargin, director of public information. Bernstein Chargin told BenitoLink on Sept. 1 that the power failure happened off campus and said, “It was a PG&E thing, something to do with the grid.”

“The power flickered on and off a couple of times,” Bernstein Chargin said. “Power outages at the campus are not unusual. It happens once or twice a year. I have no information about what caused this one.”

She said the campus does have backup generators to keep its information technology infrastructure operating.

“We were able to continue our online services and classes and our website and email didn’t go down,” she said. “We were able to maintain operations at our other locations until the power came back on.”

Bernstein Chargin said whenever there is a power failure the protocol calls for the director of facilities to contact PG&E to get an estimate of how long the power will be out.

“In this case it went out early in the morning before classes had started and that’s why we decided to shut down for the day,” she said. “We got the estimate that the power would come back around noon. There was too much uncertainty, so the president made the decision to cancel on-campus activities for the day.”

Mayra Tostado, spokeswoman for PG&E, said the incident caused 230 customers, including Gavilan, to lose power after a tree fell into power lines near Monterey Highway, south of Castro Valley Road, at 9:37 a.m., but Bernstein Chargin told BenitoLink the campus lost power at 5:15 a.m. She maintained the power went down at 5:15 a.m., came back on and then went down again at 9:37 a.m. She said she has not received an explanation why it went down earlier. 

Tostado also noted:

  • Due to the drought-intensified conditions including extremely dry fuel conditions and the receptivity of those fuels to ignite and spread quickly, even without major winds, PG&E is taking additional steps to further mitigate the potential for equipment-sparked wildfires.
  • One of those steps is increasing the sensitivity of fault-sensing devices, such as circuit breakers and line reclosers, in high fire-threat areas and increasing the speed in which these devices will operate to prevent potential arcs and sparks that could result in fire ignitions.
  • One result of setting these devices to turn off the line more quickly is that PG&E crews need to fully patrol the entire line from the point where the fault-sensing device operated to the end of the line.
  • In this case, crews had to patrol the entire line to look for additional damage or hazards affecting our equipment.


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John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...