Cruzio Internet in the Storms of January 2023

trees block street in the Santa Cruz Mountains

When Robert tried to come to work on January 5th, this was what his commute looked like

We were out in the storms

From Pacifica to Monterey and all places in between, Cruzio’s tri-bay service area was hit hard by the storms last month. We thought you’d like to see some of the challenges we faced as we tried to reach every part of our network for maintenance and repairs.

Cruzio staff encountered flooded roads, insane potholes and sinkholes, mudslides, blown over redwood trees. We got calls from subscribers with weeks-long power outages, knocked-over utility poles, equipment sitting in muddy puddles.

Every aspect was tough, and required 24/7 attention from our field and technical staffs. Cruzio was on the road every day, first preparing for problems (storms are coming — could be serious!), then braving the deluge once it hit, and finally looking for rainbows and getting to the gnarlier repairs.

Cruzio staff, like so many people, were sometimes stuck in their homes, confronted by unsafe conditions. The folks who could make it in the our headquarters had to carry an even heavier load.

What We Found in the Weather

Our infrastructure faced huge challenges. We had to deal with twisted and crushed fiberoptic cables, radio equipment spun by high winds, and power outages that outlasted our uninterrupted power supplies and required us to haul generators to remote areas in the dark and the rain.

Storms hit at all hours. It jarred us from sleep. One particularly difficult night our pager person was called almost every hour all night long. It was his first week on pager! Thank you Robert G!

How’d We Do?

But wait. Faced with all that, how’d we do?

Remarkably well. Granted we couldn’t always get through to everyone right away, as we had to keep our staff and customers safe above all else. And there are still repairs lingering, and preparations to make for next time. We’ve got a long list!

But we had very few outages, thanks to tremendous preparation and follow-through by CTO Chris Frost and his team. Almost all interruptions were due to power issues, and we’re well-prepared for those, having seen so many in the last few years.

We Heard from You

It meant a lot to us that Cruzio subscribers from all over sent us heartwarming thank-yous. Here are a few:

“I hope this message doesn’t jinx anything, but, as a multi decade Cruzio customer, I am super impressed with how we are getting continuous service even in this extreme weather.”

“So often we take time to complain when things don’t meet with our expectations. I wanted to take a minute to thank you and your company for outstanding service from two incredible employees.”

“There’s two large bags of Oranges/Lemons in the kitchen, courtesy of the Weston customers we helped out earlier this week.”

PHOTOS FROM THE STORMS

We Were Out in the Storms

Just after Christmas 2022 Cruzio started preparing for rainy weather. The storms started on New Year’s Eve and didn’t let up for weeks. All the photos below were taken by Cruzio staff as we went around our service area assessing damage and making repairs:

The storm began like this. Down in the lower-lying regions, our rivers were looking pretty full. We watched the gauges anxiously. If the river topped the levees in downtown Santa Cruz it would be an all-hands emergency.

This is where Branciforte Creek (below the bridge in the upper right) was emptying vast amounts of muddy brown water to the already-full San Lorenzo River.San Lorenzo River in downtown Santa Cruz

 

The river overwhelmed the Benchlands, close to the Santa Cruz County Building.San Lorenzo River in downtown Santa Cruz

 

The water came close to the base of the bridge
San Lorenzo River in downtown Santa Cruz

We were lucky in downtown Santa Cruz, you can see the river was high but it didn’t breach the levee. Other river communities weren’t so lucky:  Felton Grove had a particularly hard time

 

Creeks up north in Half Moon Bay were overflowing, too:

Pilarcitos Creek, Half Moon Bay

Photo by Rob Genovesi, December 31, 2022

And in the San Lorenzo Valley. This is Felton:

Water rushing in Felton

Photo by James Hackett, January 2022

Up in the mountains, falling trees were a huge problem. This is what a Cruzio staffer met with as he tried to get down to our headquarters:

road in san lorenzo valley blocked by fallen trees

Photo by Robert Gilwee, January 5 2023

fallen trees blocking road in the San Lorenzo Valley

Photo by Robert Gilwee, January 5 2023

 

And we had similar problems trying to reach our subscribers in the mountains. This is Glenwood Drive:

road destroyed by mudslide

Photo by Sonya Campbell, January 2023

 

Close up:

closeup of road destroyed by mudslide

Photo by Sonya Campbell, January 2023

 

We saw the aftermath of a lot of devastation:

Car crushed by fallen tree

Photo by Ben Goodell, January 2 2023

 

Downed fiber lines affected Cruzio Internet directly:

downed fiber internet lines

Photo by Ben Goodell, January 4 2023

 

downed fiber internet lines, San Lorenzo Valley

Photo by Ben Goodell, January 4 2023

 

It’s hard to send internet through this:

Downed fiber optic internet cables, San Lorenzo Valley

Photo by Ben Goodell, January 4 2023

 

Or this fiber optic line getting crushed in San Mateo County:

Fiber optic internet lines downed in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Photo by Rob Genovesi, January 9th 2023

 

The downed trees made their way to the ocean and built up huge piles:

San Lorenzo River mouth, Santa Cruz

Photo by Steve Hubbard, Alex’s dad, January 5, 2023

 

That’s the Santa Cruz Boardwalk being battered by high tide and river outflow simultaneously:

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Photo by Steve Hubbard, Alex’s dad, January 5, 2023

 

In fact the tide meeting the river current created some decent wave action pretty far up the river. People were surfing those waves even past the trestle bridge near the Santa Cruz Boardwalk :

 

Piles and heaps of downed trees and limbs and other flotsam created huge dams. A lot of work for Public Works departments to keep the water flowing:

 

People came out to move the flotsam off the volleyball courts because after all, (volley)Ball is Life:

 

They pushed the fallen trees into big piles by the Coconut Grove:

 

The cliffs aren’t looking too good either. We’ve seen a lot of cracking and splitting in the last few years, and having high waves full of rocks and downed trees smashing against the cliffs doesn’t help. This is a section of cliff right above Steamer Lane — a portion of it crashed into the water days later:

 

Back to the mountains, where fiber splicing crew were spotted fixing some of the downed lines:

 

The beach looked pretty messy and the water seemed dangerous — tree trunks anybody? But surfers were out and about pretty quickly:

 

We’re still seeing toppled trees all over:

 

And can you spot the frisbee golf station?:

 

West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz was ripped apart:

 

Fencing flung over, cliffsides tumbled down:

 

Lanes closed, probably for many months and after that, who knows?:

waves destroying West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz

Photo by Peggy Dolgenos, January 22, 2023

 

But there were the surfers:

surfers on muddy Steamer Lane waves

Photo by Peggy Dolgenos, January 22, 2023

 

And we hadn’t seen rainbows for a while, but here they were:

Rainbow over Lighthouse Point, Santa Cruz

Photo by Peggy Dolgenos, January 22, 2023

Pinball Machines: Just the Facts

Once again, our always-curious, ever-resourceful Sales and Marketing Manager Jesus Lopez, has taken a deep dive into something we take for granted. This time, pinball machines!

  • Pinball got its start in France, dating back to the 1700’s in a game called Bagatelle, which was basically croquet but on a board with wooden pins and a ball that was devised as a way to play croquet but not out in the rain :rain_cloud:
  • However, it wasn’t until 1871 when Montague Redgrave from Ohio turned an old Bagatelle game into the first pinball game, after making some serious improvements, like a coiled spring, a slope, more marbles, etc :seal_ball:
  • Much like cool nerds people do n movies and video games, a lot of pinball machine developers of the late 80’s into the 90’s machines included a cow or a cow reference hidden somewhere as part of the game :fabio_cow:
  • SEGA released Apollo 13, which was a one-of-a-kind multi ball mode, where 13 balls are released into the playfield at once, more than any other pinball game in history :rocket:
  • Some pinball machines, like the Munsters pinball machine, will give you a fun “midnight madness” round if you’re playing a game and midnight strikes, sometimes leading to a chaotic multiball round to wake you up and keep you playing :troll:
  • The best selling pinball machine of all time is Bally William’s Addams Family from 1992, and I’m sure we can thank Anjelica Houston for that :wednesday_dance::wednesday_adams:
  • During the great depression (when is that over, btw?) low-cost entertainment was in high demand, so coin operated machines like pinball became hugely popular in the 1930’s :coin2:
  • However, in the late 1930’s, the US government started seeing pinball as gambling, as companies were making machines that actually cashed you out when you won, which was against gabling laws, so they were banned from the early 1940’s until 1976! :spongebob_money::cop:
  • In New York, the pinball ban was EXTRA dramatic… just weeks after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia issued an ultimatum to the city’s police force stating that their top priority would be to round up pinball machines and arrest their owners. La Guardia proceeded to spearhead massive Prohibition-style raids in which thousands of machines were rounded up in a matter of days, before being dramatically smashed with sledgehammers by the mayor and police commissioner and then dumped into the city’s rivers… wtf :astonished::flushed::disappointed:
  • Something I never really noticed before, but because pinball was illegal for so long, it became a symbol of youth and rebellion around this time period, hence the Fonz regularly playing pinball in “Happy Days” or when The Who’s “Tommy” pinball-wizard theme rock opera album came out in 1972, pinball was still banned in much of the country :rock_n_roll:
  • Shockingly, pinball is still illegal in some places… just a few years ago, Nashville, Tennessee overturned its ban on children under 18 playing or even STANDING within 10 feet for a pinball machine… and to do this day, it’s illegal to play pinball on Sundays in Ocean City, NJ :police_car:
  • Famous for such notable pinball titles as High Speed, Black Knight, and F-14 Tomcat, designer Steve Ritchie was also the “Finish Him!” voice actor in the classic video game Mortal Kombat :astonished:
  • There is still ONE company in the US that builds pinball machines, and this is where most of the new machines come from- Stern Pinball factory in the Chicago suburbs, where workers assemble everything, mostly by hand :epic_handshake:
  • 1979 Williams “Gorgar” was the first talking pinball machine with an 8 word vocabulary :robot_face:
  • How about some songs about pinball? I already named one up above….
  • Pinball Wizard by The Who
  • And don’t forget this rad rendition of Pinball Wizard too, by Sir Elton John
  • The first song that randomly came to mind was Olympia, WA by Rancid, as they mention playing a lonely pinball machine in the first verse
  • Reggie and the Full Effect also came up, as in the song Everything’s’ Okay he wants to go play pinball and hopefully he’ll get to drive her car too…

Massive Storms Are Expected — Internet Outages Possible

Flooding along the San Lorenzo River. Floods may affect power and internet access.

Flooding along the San Lorenzo River. Floods may affect power and internet access.

The Cruzio Team has worked diligently to prepare for the big incoming storm fronts. And we’ll continue to work diligently — through the nights and in bad weather as necessary — to keep internet up and running throughout our network.

However, with the best preparation in the world, with a weather event of this size there is a possibility that PG&E and internet services will be impacted. Our power backups will hold for a number of hours or days, depending on the site. We have redundant network paths, so if an upstream provider fails we can use another. We have shelf spares to repair or replace any equipment on our network.  Our technicians are skilled and determined to prevent and solve problems. But if roads are closed or conditions unsafe and we cannot reach our equipment, temporary outages on our network may occur.

We’ll keep our Network Status updated at all times here: https://cruzio.com/member-tools/network-status/. And follow us on Twitter at @cruzio and @cruzio_support for updates. We also highly recommend following @CALocalSCZ, a great source of data and information.

This is a great time to be making sure you have all your devices and backup batteries fully charged, generators fueled, and emergency supplies on hand. There are great resources and information available online for Santa Cruz , San Mateo and Monterey.

Here are some useful tips from Cruzio’s own Steve Dennis:

  • Make sure you have some bottled water for drinking
  • Charge all devices
  • Batteries, and flashlights at the ready
  • Never cross downed power lines
  • Slow down on the roads, and watch for standing water
  • Fill your gas tanks today
  • Pet owners keep leashes, and crates ready if you have to evacuate
  • Your safety is the most important thing. Don’t take a risk for dumb reasons
  • Let folks know your status sooner rather than later. If you need help, ask!

Stay safe and dry! 

Cruzio Newsletter #213

Cruzio Newsletter, Number 213, November 14, 2022


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Note from Cruzio’s CEO

Cruzio Internet co-CEO

There’s always a cat or two at the Cruzio CEO’s house

This is a moment for broadband.

Cruzio, with the help of government grants and non-profit support, has been connecting rural low-income communities to high-speed internet. We’re using equipment and methods that didn’t exist 10, 5, or even 2 years ago to accomplish these jobs.

We are ready to do much more.

We’re using the same high-speed, high-quality technology that we’ve pioneered in more commercially viable parts of our network. We build efficiently, economically, and sustainably.

More funding for digital equity will soon be available from the federal and state governments. Time for us to work with neighborhoods that have bad internet access and put together shovel-ready projects.

It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Federal and state funds shouldn’t be spent on empty promises or sucked up by giant corporate bureaucracies. Let’s build what our communities need, and they will make use of it for many decades.

So if you’re in an area that’s an internet desert — or you know someone who’s in that quandary — let Cruzio know. You can just check your address here and it will show up as a dot on our “needs internet” map. When we can’t serve an address, we look for patterns that will help us, and the State of California, find difficult-to-serve areas.

Or even better, tell your local representatives: County Supervisor, State Assembly Member, State Senator, Member of Congress. You can easily look up your representatives’ contact info on CaliforniaLocal.com if you’re in Santa Cruz or Monterey County.

We want to do everything we can to ensure that when the money’s all used up, our Tri-Bay Area is fully served. That means fast, affordable internet for everyone.

How Can Pumpkins Get That Big?

Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Winner 2002

The Winning Pumpkin

This year, the winning pumpkin in Half Moon Bay’s annual Safeway World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-off broke the all time US record at 2560 pounds.

What is going on with pumpkins? Here are some other U.S. record vegetable sizes:

  • largest zucchini ever: 115 lbs
  • largest butternut squash ever: 104.5 lbs
  • largest tomato ever: 10 lbs 12.7 oz
  • largest broccoli ever: 35 lbs

Excuse me? The largest pumpkin weighs about 233 times as much as the largest tomato? The biggest of big pumpkins weigh well over a ton! About as heavy as a Mini Cooper. No other vegetable comes close.

(What about fruit, you say? And technically the pumpkin is a fruit, so that is a fair question. Were you going to guess watermelon? No such luck. The largest watermelon ever grown in the US was 350.5 pounds.)

Why?

Good genes. The variety that grows so big is called the Atlantic Giant. It’s not good to eat — too watery. It’s not great to carve — it flattens out as it grows. But it does get very, very big and heavy without bursting from its own weight like the tomatoes and other fruits and veggies do. And it’s able to channel a huge amount of water — pumpkins are mostly water — through its unique fibrous stem. Techniques are here, if you’re ambitious to grow a giant, go for it!

Half Moon Bay holds the “superbowl of pumpkin weight contest” every year. For 49 years (starting a year after the Art & Pumpkin Festival), pumpkin enthusiasts have trucked in their mega-gourds to discover who’s got the biggest of all. And this year a farmer named Travis Gienger from Minnesota rolled in with a 2,560 lb pumpkin (a little off the world record of 2,702 lbs by a farmer in Italy last year).

Of course, the pumpkin weighing was live-streamed over a Cruzio connection. It was thrilling!

And maybe it’s not surprising that the record’s been broken again. Winning pumpkins have been getting bigger and bigger. Check out the chart below, showing the sizes of pumpkins growing massively each decade.

chart of half moon bay champion pumpkin sizes

Don’t Fall for Phishing — Some Tips

Did you notice phishing email that tried to use Cruzio’s logo recently? They must have grabbed it off our website. But they squished it, so the fake was easy to spot!

Fake logo. This kitty is squished:
narrow kitty logo, incorrect

Real logo, see the difference?:
normal kitty logo, where the kitty is in a circle, not a narrow oval

Once again, a reminder to stay alert. Scammers are getting more convincing with email pretending to be from a trusted organization. Be suspicious of unexpected email, whether it’s supposedly from your bank, from an online store, or even from Cruzio.

Whenever you have the slightest doubt, please contact us. Note that by the time you see the phishing, most often we’ve already handled it and the link has been disabled. But it’s better to be safe and not click unless you’re sure.

What are some signs? The biggest is that when you hover your cursor over the “from” field or any links in the email, you’ll see a weird non-Cruzio address. The website they send you to is probably buried deep in the computer of some previous victim. We’ve illustrated what hovering looks like here.

Another sign that email is fake: when you look closely, it doesn’t look right. There may be lots of misspellings (which we rarely do!), or odd wording. Phishing emails are often written by non-native English writers, though they’ve gotten more sophisticated.

We’ll Match Holiday Food Donations

canned good for hungry people in Santa Cruz and San Mateo

Food banks are do efficient bulk buying of food. Your dollars go a long way!

Double your holiday donation to Second Harvest Food Bank!

As Cruzio’s long-time subscribers know, we contribute throughout the year to the Second Harvest Food Bank to feed local people in need. In fact, if you are late with a Cruzio payment, we will take cans of food in lieu of a late fee any time of year!

Second Harvest Is a great organization that does a lot of good in the community — Charity Navigator describes it as “a sustainable, high performing food distribution network.”

Here’s how:

If you send us a check with your donation made out to Second Harvest Food Bank, Cruzio will match your donation up to $1,500 total. Send the check to Cruzio, attn Finance Department, 877 Cedar Street Suite 150, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.

Even easier: if you prefer to donate online, just send us a screen shot of your donation and we’ll match it with ours.

We’ll count any donations made before 1/1/2023!

Use Your Internet Connection to Help a Neighbor Afford Internet

And one last pitch for local folks in need: if you’re a Cruzio subscriber, it’s super easy to help very-low-income families afford good internet. Cruzio’s Equal Access uses small donations — even a few dollars a month — to keep costs for qualifying local households under $15/month.

That’s helping kids do their homework and seniors access health information and all kinds of meaningful things. Here’s the link to set up a contribution.

Changes in Government: Redrawn Districts

map of new Central Coast congressional districtsCruzio has subscribers all around the Tri-Bay Area: Half Moon, San Francisco and Monterey Bays. And as we researched which elected representatives could help us identify and solve deficiencies in internet access, we found lots of districts changing — many significantly.

This does affect who to talk to about using broadband funding in your neighborhood. Note that we’re not trying to advocate for anything or anyone except better internet.

The 2020 Census Brought 2022 Changes

This year, as a result of our 2020 census results, our district borders have been redrawn for congressional, state senate, and state assembly representation. In some cases the changes are quite significant. Folks in the San Lorenzo Valley, for example, will now be in Representative Jimmy Panetta’s district rather than that of Anna Eshoo. At the same time, the city of Salinas was in Panetta’s district — but is now in Zoe Lofgren’s.

The district changes took place for the election we just had. The actual representation will change with the next session.

The best way we’ve found to look at all the district changes is this map, where you can click on “Current Day” to see the pre-2022 districts and “Final Map” to see the new ones. It shows Congressional, State Senate, and State Assembly districts.

Representatives Will Need to Get Acquainted with Different Internet Needs

The changes could have an effect on our internet prospects, because Representative Anna Eshoo is the senior member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee in Congress. She has been very effective helping folks in the Santa Cruz Mountains when their internet was threatened.

Internet in mountain communities is still a huge area of concern and now it will likely be up to Jimmy Panetta. Panetta has a great staff and has done good work on internet expansion further south, in Monterey County. He may be less familiar with the mountains but we have high hopes. We’ll continue to work with residents of the San Lorenzo Valley and other mountain communities, as well as farming and coastal towns, to secure funding where it’s needed.

Fortunately for our more rural San Mateo customers’ internet prospects a bit further north, Eshoo’s district will be covering their neck of the woods. If Eshoo is re-elected as projected, there will be a powerful voice for local telecommunications representing them. Cruzio will certainly be identifying needed internet improvements in San Mateo County,.

Wherever you see a need for internet, please let us know where we can help.

Let Your Representatives Know Where Internet is Most Needed

Whoever’s in the new seats, we urge you to check their statements about equitable internet access and to contact them for upcoming funding. Money from the federal and state governments will be coming available in the next couple of years and congressional representatives have a lot of influence on where and how the funds are spent.

Sadly for internet equity, we are losing a tremendous advocate in Santa Cruz County, Mark Stone. Stone was a strong and, at times, lonely voice in the State Assembly insisting that old DSL speeds of 6 Mbps down, 1 up, weren’t sufficient for future needs. Thanks for recognizing the importance of rural internet, Mr. Stone!