A car crashed into a power pole at Ward and San Pablo. The pole fell onto a parked car. Photo: Danielle Madugo
A car crashed into a power pole at Ward and San Pablo. The pole fell onto a parked car. Photo: Danielle Madugo

A car crash downed power lines and caused outages to more than 1,000 people in southwest Berkeley on Thursday night, and police say it appears drugs or alcohol may have been a contributing factor.

Reports began coming into Berkeleyside from readers on Twitter at about 8:40 p.m. Readers said the car crashed at Ward Street and San Pablo Avenue.

One local resident said, after the crash, the vehicle’s sole occupant appeared to stumble out of the sedan and collapse in a neighbor’s yard.

Berkeley Police Lt. Dan Montgomery said the man was naked from the waist down when police took him into custody. The man, who looked to be in his early 20s, was taken to the hospital for minor injuries. Police recovered the man’s pants at the scene.

Police believe the driver may have been intoxicated and are treating the crash as a DUI investigation, Montgomery said. He said the car appeared to have been totaled, but that there was “surprisingly little damage” otherwise.

Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats confirmed just before 9 p.m. that “a vehicle collided with a power pole” causing the outage. The incident is still under investigation.

One reader reported that she received a robocall from PG&E saying that 1,255 people were affected by the outage. 

Another reader reported hearing speeding police cars and sirens in the area after the crash.

Montgomery said a PG&E crew got to the scene quickly and neutralized the power lines. The team is now working to restore power.

One local resident said a downed power pole had smashed onto a parked vehicle as a result of the crash, and that an officer told him at about 10 p.m. that power was not expected to be fully restored for more than six hours. He said Ward Street had been taped off from Mabel Street to San Pablo and that at least three police cruisers were on the scene, in addition to two PG&E trucks.

One neighbor reported on Twitter that the driver had run into the power pole, which crashed onto a parked car, then drove into a second parked vehicle before trying to drive off.

Police take measurements around Thursday’s crash. Photo: Danielle Madugo
Police take measurements around Thursday’s crash. Photo: Danielle Madugo
The outage as of about 9 p.m. Source: PG&E

Readers around San Pablo Park and in South Berkeley reported that their power is out.

PG&E’s outage map said, as of 9:36 p.m., 1,282 customers had been affected, and there was no estimate on when power might be restored. According to the outage map, “PG&E is assessing the cause at the outage location.”

Berkeleyside requested confirmation and additional information from PG&E but never received a response.

The DUI crash on Ward happened shortly before another apparent DUI crash downtown, Montgomery said.

At 8:45 p.m., a driver at Shattuck Avenue and Cedar Street ran into a light pole in the center median. The 60-year-old man was taken into custody on suspicion of driving under the influence. He was released pending further investigation.

The man sustained injuries and “was extremely intoxicated requiring admittance to the hospital,” Montgomery said.

Update, Dec. 4, 9:53 a.m. PG&E sent an automated update to customers by email shortly before 2 a.m. stating that the outage had been caused by “fallen wires.” At that time 58 customers were affected. Those 58 customers were still affected as of 8:37 a.m. Friday according to a follow-up email. Power was expected to be restored by 8 p.m. Members of the public can sign up for updates online.

This story was updated after publication due to the developing nature of events.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...