Mysterious Attack On California Power Station. Terrorism?

What if I told you that last April there was an attack on an electrical power station in California? What if I told you this attack involved multiple people and it appeared very coordinated? What if this attack lasted close to one hour – and the attackers disappeared into the night just before law enforcement appeared? What if I told you the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the attack was “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred” in the U.S. ?

You probably wouldn’t believe me and I wouldn’t blame you. After all – at least up until now this has not been in any news. But here is the deal – it did happen. 

The Wall Street Journal broke this story, which can be read HERE. Here are a few excerpts:

The attack began just before 1 a.m. on April 16 last year, when someone slipped into an underground vault not far from a busy freeway and cut telephone cables.

Within half an hour, snipers opened fire on a nearby electrical substation. Shooting for 19 minutes, they surgically knocked out 17 giant transformers that funnel power to Silicon Valley. A minute before a police car arrived, the shooters disappeared into the night.


The attack was “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred” in the U.S., said Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time.

The Wall Street Journal assembled a chronology of the Metcalf attack from filings PG&E made to state and federal regulators; from other documents including a video released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department; and from interviews, including with Mr. Wellinghoff.



At 12:58 a.m., AT&T fiber-optic telecommunications cables were cut—in a way that made them hard to repair—in an underground vault near the substation, not far from U.S. Highway 101 just outside south San Jose. It would have taken more than one person to lift the metal vault cover, said people who visited the site.

Nine minutes later, some customers of Level 3 CommunicationsLVLT +10.00% an Internet service provider, lost service. Cables in its vault near the Metcalf substation were also cut.

At 1:31 a.m., a surveillance camera pointed along a chain-link fence around the substation recorded a streak of light that investigators from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office think was a signal from a waved flashlight. It was followed by the muzzle flash of rifles and sparks from bullets hitting the fence.

The substation’s cameras weren’t aimed outside its perimeter, where the attackers were. They shooters appear to have aimed at the transformers’ oil-filled cooling systems. These began to bleed oil, but didn’t explode, as the transformers probably would have done if hit in other areas.

About six minutes after the shooting started, PG&E confirms, it got an alarm from motion sensors at the substation, possibly from bullets grazing the fence, which is shown on video.

Four minutes later, at 1:41 a.m., the sheriff’s department received a 911 call about gunfire, sent by an engineer at a nearby power plant that still had phone service.

Riddled with bullet holes, the transformers leaked 52,000 gallons of oil, then overheated. The first bank of them crashed at 1:45 a.m., at which time PG&E’s control center about 90 miles north received an equipment-failure alarm.

Five minutes later, another apparent flashlight signal, caught on film, marked the end of the attack. More than 100 shell casings of the sort ejected by AK-47s were later found at the site.

At 1:51 a.m., law-enforcement officers arrived, but found everything quiet. Unable to get past the locked fence and seeing nothing suspicious, they left.

Could this have just been a test run for multiple targets or possibly a larger target(can you say “nuclear”)? Could it be a group of buddies drank a bit too much and were upset at the size of their electric bill and decided to shoot up the station and cut some cables? I somehow doubt that one.

What this shows is the venerability of at least some parts of our electrical grid. In this example power was able to be routed around the damaged equipment and customers did not lose power. What if there had been multiple strikes?

Lots of questions and not too many answers.





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  1. based on the fact that this happened prior to the ‘announced’ grid down exercise, i would guess it was an unannounced test…we all know what’s going on here…

    • kanuuker –

      Dude, like….sorry man. I am totally going to ranktify the spellchecker for putting in the wrong word.

      Peace out –


  2. @kanuker seriously? You have never misspelled a word? Folks me thinks we found a troll…

    Rourke, I seen this yesterday on the news, and it’s hard to believe that with the nsa checking everyone’s text messages and email that this obviously planned attack happen on their watch.

  3. Thanks for the info.Makes everyone think how easy it is to have this happen.I sure hope that “kanuuker” dose knot pass by my signs that say in BIG letters “HOME PROTEC DID BY GUMS”doe kot cum in. LOL

  4. Funny replies.

    IF this is a test run, they did not get the results they expected, and no further attacks were planned.

    BUT, now that this has been published, a few weeks ago, the attackers can see that they were actually successful. So, if they were trying to take down a piece of the power grid then they now know that multiple stations will have to be hit at the same time. Otherwise, they just route power in from other stations to keep things running for their customers.

    The article also gave up info about motion detection systems, which “Mythbusters” had a segment on about approaches to defeat the sensors.

    It is a good article to use in showing friends and neighbors that there are those that really are trying to cause harm to our society and nation. The time to prepare is BEFORE they stage a larger attack.

  5. For those at the NSA, I retired form a refinery that placed 3 ton stones around the entire perimeter of the property… ‘millions’ of tons of stone simply to keep a low tech ‘breadtruck’ attack form breaching the fence, steel/hydraulic ‘truck stoppers’ at the gates.. yada yada. This fortune 50 Corporation neglected to replace the ‘rent-a-cop’ security service that ‘protects’ this “Federal Trade Zone” Nor have they done anything to ‘secure’ the 800 or so KILO–TONS of compressed gas in high pressure spheres 300 yards from the fence protected by those big-olde-rocks. I imagine the threat of some over weight guard screaming “freeze sucker orI’llnail ya with this traffic cone”… would more than likely deter just about any Terrorista Cell……..

    Geezo… only reason this countries utilities haven’t been trashed is…. Well lets leave that to the NSA and anyone else that cares to guess why.

  6. Seems to me that this was very likely a test (by un-friendlies)to see how effective this type of attack would be. Somehow, despite The NSA and the DHS listening in on our phone calls, reading our text and e-mails and tracking our web site visits we can be assured that our enemies are living among us. They must be scheming and planning all sorts of ways to bring down “The Great Satan”. The grid has always been a worry, back in the 80’s our leaders did a lot of hand wringing about it….. and little else. Now are enemies are here, yanking on the countries power plug to see how easily it will pop out. And they’re looking at metro water supplies as well…. and lots more…

    A top commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards boasted recently that his forces have plans in place to attack the United States from within, should the U.S. attack the Islamic Republic.

    “America, with its strategic ignorance, does not have a full understanding of the power of the Islamic Republic,” Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami said in a televised interview. “We have recognized America’s military strategy, and have arranged our abilities, and have identified centers in America [for attack] that will create a shock.”

    Reports indicate that terrorist Hezbollah forces — allies of Iran — have infiltrated the U.S. and have mapped out targets. “We will conduct such a blow in which they [America] will be destroyed from within,” Salami said.

    This is the second warning by a high-ranking officer of the Guards in two weeks. The chief commander of the Guards, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Jafari, addressing Secretary of State John Kerry, said on Jan. 24 that a direct conflict with America is the “strongest dream of the faithful and revolutionary men around the world.”

    But alas, American Idol is back on…. distraction aplenty… Make plans, prep, don’t get caught off guard.

  7. Back in the mid eighties if memory serves me right there was a study done on what it would take to cripple NYC. One man could with a high power rifle take out enough transformers in one night from a vehicle on the highways to severely cripple the city for approximately six months as there were no spares and the transformers had been made overseas.

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