The lights suddenly went dark Thursday for thousands of PG&E customers in Santa Rosa, including in the Santa Rosa Junior College and much of the Sonoma County government complex.

The power failure stretched over a swath of central Santa Rosa, darkening traffic signals near College Avenue and Highway 101 and cutting some lighting at the Sonoma County Jail south of Bicentennial Way, which switched to generator power.

"All the lights went out, the power went down and alarms went off," said Wes Kitchel, assistant chief of operations with Sonoma County Fire.

The outage started at 3:01 p.m. and at one point effected 2,007 customers, PG&E spokeswoman Jana Morris said.

The cause eventually was identified as a failure of underground equipment outside a substation near Sonoma and Santa Rosa avenues. Power was restored to all customers at 5:48 p.m., a spokesman said.

<NO1><NO><NO1><NO>Power was lost for customers as far north as Bicentennial Way and as far south as Railroad Square, where restaurant staffs were making sure refrigerated food remained sufficiently cold.

Three SRJC students were rescued from an elevator after being trapped when power was lost, college spokeswoman Ellen Maremont Silver said.

College staff went from building-to-building, alerting staff and students they were evacuating the campus for the remainder of the day and would reopen in the morning.

Long lines of traffic clogged Mendocino Avenue as legions of students and staff leaving campus joined the afternoon crush. Officers helped direct traffic at Mendocino and Elliot avenues where signals were out, SRJC Police Chief Matt McCaffrey said.

The outage shut down computers throughout the county complex, from the Sheriff's Office to administrative offices and the courts.

"Most of our offices are dark like ours," said Ray Leonard, an administrative services officer with the Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor.

However, crucial sites such as the county's emergency dispatch center and others required to be open such as the registrar of voters remained functional on generator power, Leonard said.