back to article This week it rained in San Francisco and the power immediately blew out. Your tech utopia

It's amazing what 12 hours of something can do. For Silicon Valley, and particularly San Francisco, half a day of heavyish rain that would be described "April, maybe early May," by many Scots Highlanders, has caused massive problems and highlighted again why the area is losing its edge. At about 0730 PT on Thursday, a blown …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Today it rained in San Francisco. The power blew out across the city and ElReg went mad.

    What is that front page ? I had to check I wasn't on some kind of bizzare win8 mobile site.

    Please give me a bit of warning if you are going to do something like that, nearly gave me a heart attack.

    Now the palpitations are slowing, it doesn't look half bad but it will take a bit of getting used to as I have the old Reg layout burnt into my retinas.

    As the days go by, we face the increasing inevitability that we are alone in a godless, uninhabited, hostile and meaningless universe. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you?

    1. Lionel Baden

      Re: WTF

      We had the office party last night .. I AM NOT CURRENTLY EQUIPPED TO DEAL WITH CHANGE !!!

      *icon for the hangover

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: WTF

        is it just me or is the banner a much much more eye-searing red?

  2. Nate Amsden

    Hate sf

    SF sucks. Well I guess all big cities suck to me anyway. I live near SF airport and have been to SF 3 times this year (two of which were to meet people from out of country). I hate every aspect of the city. Though SF is not alone same goes for Seattle(lived near there for a decade). Theres two places I like in seattle, hate the rest.

    I cant think of a single place worth visiting in SF that would make up for the otherwise horrible experience being there.

    I drove to orange county this mornin just missed the rain. My UPS said I had a 21 min outage this mornin but the batteries held up.

    1. fishbone

      Re: Hate sf

      Couldn't agree more, lived in Alameda for fifteen years after leaving the military in norcal. Weather sucked when it sucked and that was for months at a time yearly, great when it was nice though. As for April in Scotland, well all that and Scots too why aren't they beating down the doors to get in? After twenty years in San Diego I can report bubble heads abound but seventy degree weather in December makes up for not owning raingear.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby

        Re: Hate sf

        Then come to Chicago.

        More affordable but then you have to deal with the Midwest's winters.

        Oh wait, you're happy you don't have seasons.

        Nevermind. You'd never survive a year in Chicago.

        1. Oninoshiko

          Re: Hate sf

          That's ok, a lot of people don't survive the killing fields of Chicago's summers either.

        2. TheRealRoland

          Re: Hate sf

          It is funny, though. It's barely 'nippy'* outside, and you'll see people in the Bay Area wearing bubble coats and earmuffs. "But don't you think it's cold today?"

          * i'll leave the possible jokes for someone else to make. Monday, and all that.

  3. Number6

    Still Going

    It started raining about twelve hours ago and it's still falling. Makes me feel like I'm back in England :-)

    SF is a pale shadow of what it was twenty years ago, caused in part by the way the locals were pushed out by the influx of well-paid tech people overpaying for houses, either buying or renting. There are articles on the web that explain how the short-sighted policies of San Francisco and other cities in the Bay Area are making it worse.

    1. J-Wick

      Re: Still Going

      SF is always a pale shadow of what it was 20 years ago. In 20 years people will be saying the same thing.

      1. Number6

        Re: Still Going

        Understandable, because the people there now will probably not like whatever displaces them over the next twenty years. My original comments were based on conversations with people who lived there twenty years ago, some of whom still live there, others moved away and are now back in the area.

      2. Ian Michael Gumby

        Re: Still Going

        "SF is always a pale shadow of what it was 20 years ago. In 20 years people will be saying the same thing."


        In 20 years time people will be trying to remember what San Francisco looked like after the big one.

        Time to buy some beach front property in East Bay when San Francisco becomes the next Atlantis...

        1. launcap Silver badge

          Re: Still Going

          >Time to buy some beach front property in East Bay when San Francisco

          >becomes the next Atlantis...

          Or buy property in SF for when the rest of the US slides into the Atlantic/Pacific leaving SoCal as a small island adrift in the sea*

          (*) subject of a Sci-Fi short that I read many, many years ago. Time, red wine and having to work for a living have dulled the memory of the author..

        2. Paul Wagenseil

          Re: Still Going

          "A Slight Miscalculation," Ben Bova. Available in Joe Haldeman's compilation "Cosmic Laughter."

      3. TheRealRoland

        Re: Still Going

        Bah! Nostalgia isn't what it used to be...

  4. Decade

    Disruption from mild weather is not unique to San Francisco

    I think this storm damage is just a sign of how wonderfully mild the weather in San Francisco is. We have high winds and heavy rains so seldom that it hasn't been worth it to make the infrastructure resilient to it. Just like Atlanta, Georgia, with snow.

    Also, in my area of San Francisco, there was no power outage.

    1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: Disruption from mild weather is not unique to San Francisco

      I think the utilities and authorities in San Francisco are between a rock and a hard place here.. We have a similar situation in the UK. Namely that when it snows, everything grids to a halt. People blame the authorities for not spending enough preparing for the snow, but what happens if the authorities spend a lot of money on equipment, then don't get the chance to use it for several years because it doesn't snow that often in the UK? People complain the authorities are wasting money on equipment they don't need.

      Don't get me wrong, I think there is a balance between being prepared and wasting money that the authorities in the UK continually get wrong (they don't spend enough), and I find it frankly embarrassing how unprepared our authorities are. An example. A few years ago, we were hit by relatively heavy snow. The roads out of the town where I live were closed for two days. The railway was inaccessible for 4 days. As such, we could not get into or out of our town, and, as a result of both that and our various supermarket's policies of maintaining the minimum stock possible, the town was running dangerously low on supplies.

      That would be bad enough (although slightly more understandable) if I lived in a small town in the country, but I don't. I live in a suburb of London, about 10 miles away from Central London. The reason it took 2 days to get the roads open again? TFL did not have enough grit or lorries to grit the roads. The reason it took 4 days to re-open the railway? A tree had fallen, and National Rail only have one train in the South East that can clear fallen trees from railway lines. Bear in mind that the South East has a *lot* of trees and most stretches of railway track are near trees.

  5. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Come to Vancouver

    It rains everyday so we are used to it and can cope (although in true "British" Columbia style it grinds to a halt with 1/4" of snow)

    Rents are only slightly outrageous, the secret is to build high rises at transit stations and in the downtown core, although house price are eye-watering to anyone not from London.

    Lots of smart people, the city is majority ethnic groups that stereo-typically do well in school, and the country is prepared to let more skilled workers in. Best scenery in North America and food that is the natural result of taking everything UKIP hate and putting them in one city.

    Only drawback is that the pay is 1/2 that of silicon valley because everyone wants to live here and Canadians are too polite to ask for a raise.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Come to Vancouver

      "everyone wants to live here"

      Lies. I loathe Vancouver. Now, Tofino...I would like to live in Tofino...

      1. gregthecanuck

        Re: Come to Vancouver

        Tofino - if you want somewhere gorgeous to unwind that's the place. It's worth the drive.

        Try to make it there are least once a year...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Come to Vancouver

          Live on the north shore, closer to mountains and less big city feel, easy to go to downtown etc. Though it does rain a little more (not an issue if you grew up in Wales where it rains even more) and the bridges can cause grief commuting when there's a problem.

          Now if only it would snow as it's possible to leave home and be on a ski slope in 30 mins

    2. disgruntled yank

      Re: Come to Vancouver

      I've never been to Vancouver, but the US NW weather pattern is for a lot of days with a little rain. I think that the residents of Seattle and Portland would be running hard uphill after a 4" rain.

  6. Rik Myslewski

    As we homeboys say, "Born 'n' raised"

    I was born in San Francisco in 1950 — yeah, I'm an old fart — and have thus had the privilege of watching multiple transformations of my beloved home town over the years.

    The Mission? From Irish to Latino and now to hipster.

    The Castro? From working-class Italian to scruffy escaping-Indiana gay guys to upper-middle-class married gay families.

    The Fillmore? From a vibrant middle-class black community to a ghetto gulch to an emerging multi-cultural hopeful hotspot.

    Mission Bay? Jury still out.

    Dogpatch? Still in flux.

    Excelsior? Cleaning up, and a happy place for working-class families.

    "Skid Row" (4th and Howard)? Once the asshole of the town, now an arts and cultural center. The asshole, by the way, has for the past decade or more moved to 6th and Market/Mission — and with the mid-Market tech influx, it's likely to move again.

    Upper Clement? First Russian, then Chinese immigrants entrepeneurilly bustling (if "entrepreneurilly" can fairly be counted as an actual word).

    The Sunset? Was boring; is boring; will be boring — unless, of course, some-as-yet-unexpected tectonic trend takes hold.

    I would advise commenters who have only a few years of San Francisco experience under their belts to not feel entitled to premature pontification. This is a wonderful city, and as such — think Berlin, Istanbul, Paris, New York, Rio — sometimes the pendulum swings one way, sometimes it swings another, but the fundamenals remain the same: San Francisco is a wonderful town inhabited by a roiling mix of thoughtful problem-solvers and cement-headed ideologues — as it has been for well over 200 years.

    The long view is the right view — unless, of course, you're being evicted tomorrow ...

    Or, as my ol' dad used to tell me, "Life's tough in the big city."

    1. TheRealRoland

      Re: As we homeboys say, "Born 'n' raised"

      >(if "entrepreneurilly" can fairly be counted as an actual word).

      There's a ring of truthiness to it.

  7. Kunari

    Infrastructure Crumbling

    Like many cities in the States, the infrastructure is crumbling and the "conservatives" are against any plans to invest in rebuilding.

    1. Tom 7

      Re: Infrastructure Crumbling

      I get the impression that with the ongoing water shortage situation California will be closing down in the not too distant future unless you get a few years of continuous rain.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Infrastructure Crumbling

      Idiot. There are NO CONSERVATIVES in California. They moved away a long time ago.

      1. Mike 16


        Then who passed Prop 8?

        And who keeps Prop 13, the "move all property tax burden from businesses to homeowners" rule alive? Incidentally also the "funnel all taxes, even local ones, through Sacramento where they can be 'carefully vetted' i.e. skimmed and doled out to friends and family" rule.

        OK, the "Make college so crappy/expensive that diploma mills funded by enormous student loans look good" plan is partly driven by DiFi's hubby, but to think Big Ag, banks, and megacorps don't have the dominant power here is nuts. Well, them and the prison-guard union. Yeah, shameless Liberals, right?

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Infrastructure Crumbling

        "There are NO CONSERVATIVES in California. "

        The USA has an odd social structure where the coastal and great liakes cities are "hotbeds of liberalism" and most of the rest of the country is deeply conservative - including rural California (The central Valley is extremely conservative)

        In the midwest, where cities are fairly conservative, they are still regarded as "dangerously liberal" by much of the surrounding countryside.

    3. Cipher

      Re: Infrastructure Crumbling

      You do know who has been running almost every major U.S. city for the past 50 years or so, right? Conservatives? Hardly...

      1. Kunari
        Thumb Down

        Re: Infrastructure Crumbling

        You do know who has been running almost every state governor's office and legislature, right?

  8. NeilPost

    I'm sure SF has as meny weasel's in 'public service' as the UK, though I can't see the UK council/Highway's agency favorite word of the time 'unprecedented yet'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Good to see the spirit of Margaret Thatcher is alive and well.

  9. Uberseehandel

    Education Abroad

    Whoever suggested that food in Germany is bad has never been there. Eating out in Germany can be as healthy or as unhealthy as you wish. This has been the case for a long time. Napoleon always had great difficulty getting his French troops out of Germany when he needed to do some campaigning, the food being one of the things that kept them there.

    During my years in Germany, I grew to greatly admire the quality of Germany's technical universities. Any English speaking student will greatly benefit from attending such an establishment, at many, most of the teaching is in English. I greatly admire the close cooperation between universities and industry, students graduate with very valuable address books.

    However, American friends who have educated their children in good (state) secondary schools in Europe before sending them back to the States for University report that European high school graduates are more advanced academically than their US educated peers, but that it levels out by the time post graduate work kicks in

    1. bitmap animal
      Thumb Up

      Re: Education Abroad

      re German Food.

      I've done a few business trips there over the past few years and the food was always great and the people are very welcoming and friendly. I found them to be very direct and clear, easy to get along with but not in a gushing OTT American way.

      I thoroughly recommend going if you haven't been.

    2. Yag

      German food

      Yeah, food is not so bad. I have fond memories of schnitzel with spätzles.

      But I also dread the knödels...

      1. Tom 7

        Re: German food

        The only problem seems to be going through those 20Kph signs outside villages at 20Kph. Bloody law abiding bastards.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: German food

          20 Kelvin per hour? Is that super-slow cooking?

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: German food

        I find food in the SF Bay area uniformly boring. It's almost all heaviliy Italian-influenced (which may be tolerable if you're not eating out every day for two weeks) and it's all way too sweet. Why do Californians want everything to taste like dessert?

        Up in SF itself there's more variety, of course, like in any big city. It's not a cheap place to eat out though, prices have skyrocketed over the last 20 years or so.

        1. elip

          Re: German food

          Food almost everywhere in the US is garbage. The recipes bring variety and imagination, but the ingredients are simply crappy crap. Of course, I am heavily biased (grew up in eastern europe in days when importing was not an option so every single thing was produced locally). The word 'fresh' in the US, doesn't mean what you think it means.

    3. Tom 7

      Re: Education Abroad

      My dad was a head of dept at a english uni and regularly taught in the US. He was really keen on the idea of students paying their own way as most of his students ended up in the US having been taught here at taxpayers expense. In his last few years he got a bit pissed off that most of his first years had to be brought up to the old A level standards before they could be taught at what he thought was university first year stuff. And then piss off to the states and invite him over to teach for the summer.

  10. Tom Foremski

    Water is incredibly disruptive. It can materialize out of thin air, it can torrent and sweep aside mountains...In solid rock, in tiny cracks, it patiently works away, freeze and expand, thaw and flow, until the hardest stones break down, to be turned and tumbled and turned into shiny smooth pebbles.

    Water is truly elemental, a force of nature, continually transformative changing its states of being, and continually transforming and terraforming nature... When it turns solid it becomes lighter, it's at its heaviest at 4 degrees Celsius above freezing, which means it's warmer at the bottom of a frozen lake than the top! What amazing qualities and there's more... Check out Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time episode on water:

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      and without it we wouldn't have beer.

      Happy Friday!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "how nonsensical this head-in-the-clouds approach is"

    It's the right punishment for companies trying to sell you all those cloudy things - even when they are clearly a nonsense...

  12. string

    if this is what rain does..

    ... then how is the city going to cope when the inevitable 'big one' finally strikes?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: if this is what rain does..

      I think it is generally agreed that there is no way to survive the big one (even now, and it will be a bigger big one the longer we have to wait) so the game is to make as much money as possible before it strikes.

  13. ukgnome

    Surely the headline should be

    Silicon valley - We just turned it off and back on again.

    Is it a good time to tell the folk of SF that this is merely a bit of drizzle?

    1. rpark

      Re: Surely the headline should be

      ...switching, with quick slew rates is what we do !

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But the universities have great athletic departments!

    You are right. It used to be a summer job could at least get you a semester in college. I am not saying that sports are the only reason the price is going up but a lot of money is spent on it.

    We have the same problem here in San Antonio. The school systems are in debt up to their eyeballs, the students that graduate do so at an eighth grade level but we have awesome stadiums.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: But the universities have great athletic departments!

      Well if "a little learning is a dangerous thing" think how much damage a lot could do - we havwe to keep the children safe.

  15. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    busses is the plural of buss. What's a buss?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Turn your cheek and I'll demonstrate.

  16. William Boyle

    Drought, floods...

    What's next? Hurracanes? Tornadoes? Earthquakes? Volcano erruptions? IT'S THE APOCOLYPSE! Time to bury our heads in the sand and kiss our sorry butts goodbye! :rolleyes:

  17. rpark

    ...just another plug in the wall.

    ...lets hope in those darkened board rooms some decisions were made to embrace non-power grid electric technologies (other than diesel generators) -- the local power companies, are the single point of failure that ALL of silicon valleys technology depend on.

  18. DugEBug

    The best part of Silicon Valley that I can get there in 1-hour on Southwest Airlines, take care of business, and go home.

  19. Tim Brummer

    The other Mexico.

    Nobody should be surprised, California is now "the other Mexico" as affirmed by Governor Jerry Brown, thanks to decades of unrestricted immigration wrought by the Bilderbergers and other globalists.

  20. Glenturret Single Malt


    benifited not benefitted.

    1. Irony Deficient

      Re: Spelling

      Glenturret Single Malt, benifited is not correct spelling anywhere. Benefited is probably the most widely accepted spelling, although benefitted can be acceptable in US English.

  21. Petrea Mitchell

    Come to Portland, Oregon!

    The Silicon Forest has your startup culture without the insane rents, decent mass transit for the US, PLUS the ability to handle rain, thanks to a climate every bit as drizzly as the UK.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Come to Portland, Oregon!

      Better yet, don't, so it stays that way.

  22. rusty94114

    Trouble is, little or no competent city planning has taken place in San Francisco since the 19th Century, if even then. Generations of corrupt politicians and incompetent bureaucrats have reduced city planning to a process of merely rubber-stamping the self-serving proposals of unscrupulous developers and real estate interests.

    Even when an actual city planning project was carried out -- the municipal subway line built during the 1970s -- it was designed so poorly that the trains have never been able to run on any kind of schedule. Commuters and tourists enter the stations with no notion of how long they might have to wait for a train to their destination within the city.

    The streets in San Francisco are constantly being dug up to access utilities and then patched, leaving them rough and pot-holed, with no thought ever being given to building utility tunnels or even to coordinating utility improvements with routine repaving schedules. Consequently, newly repaved streets are typically dug up again within a few weeks or months, leaving ridges and potholes in the pristine pavement. This is the typical behavior of San Francisco officialdom.

    Is it any wonder, then, that a rain storm that many other cities would consider an ordinary occurrence would paralyze parts of San Francisco and leave office workers groping in the dark? The city squanders huge amounts of money and other resources on projects that are unnecessary or poorly thought out, while failing to plan with foresight and imagination.

  23. Brian Allan 1

    Education is the foundation for innovation. If it is lacking or not affordable, the whole economy / country suffers. I went to school / university / grad school when a summer job would fund my education and never looked back. Too bad students today don't have the same opportunity!!

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. Miss Config

    People are goin' ....

    So here I am, planning my first trip to the Bay Area and what happens ?

    And I was even going to put some flowers in my hair, on the advice of a song I heard on the radio.

    But The Reg, as per, rained on my parade. Literally.

  26. Aslan

    Thank you, thank you, thank you

    I had no idea tuition was free in Germany. I'm an America. You may well have changed my life because college has always been something I wanted, but never something I was properly able to afford.

  27. Alistair


    Last week, snow, sleet, freezing, drivers forget how to drive.

    This week, fog, rain, +4C, drivers forget how to drive.

    All we do is wait 15 minutes and the weather changes. For me at least, live 15 minute walk from the lake, so the cold isn't so nasty until about mid february -- in the meantime the humidity sucks.

    And what? half the city without power? in a rainstorm? Really? And I thought our infrastructure sucked. It took an icestorm, AND a wind storm to take out large swathes of our power.

    (Tee Dot for those that can't figure it out from the lake comment)

  28. Thaumaturge

    As learned from a previous girlfriend...

    There is NOTHING quite as satisfying as a good cheap shot!

    California bashing is sort of a favorite sport over here as well. Damn satisfying!

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