Coronavirus: PG&E to cut power to some East Bay residents for maintenance during stay-at-home order

ByMichael Finney and Renee Koury via KGO logo
Thursday, April 16, 2020
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Danville and Orinda residents were shocked to learn PG&E will be temporarily cutting their power in order to perform maintenance to prevent wildfires.

DANVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- As millions of Californians struggle with challenges of sheltering at home, life is about to get even rougher for hundreds of East Bay residents: PG&E will be shutting off their electricity from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday.

It's a planned power outage so PG&E can do essential maintenance. But many residents are furious PG&E is cutting off electricity when they need it most.

PG&E Power Outages: How to prepare for shut off

PG&E says these are public safety projects to prepare the next crisis: wildfires. But folks say they just want to get through "this" crisis first. And they say PG&E is doing long-overdue construction at the worst possible time.

California families hunkering down at home means lots of adjustments. Kids learning online, parents working at home.

Stephen Dunphy of Danville set up an office in his kids' old toy room. His two daughters study in their rooms. Contact with civilization is limited to the grocery store... and now this!

"You're mandated to stay home and yet they turn your power off. It can't get any worse than that," says Dunphy.

RELATED: 90% of Bay Area residents want to end PG&E's existing operations, poll finds

Dunphy and hundreds of others in Danville and Orinda were stunned to get a notice from PG&E. It said that -- on top of everything else -- PG&E will shut off their electricity all day tomorrow, so workers can install new equipment to prevent wildfires. But residents say now's not the time for maintenance.

Dunphy says, "When I called on Monday to say, you know, you guys are gonna reschedule, right? I was blown away when they said no, we're not gonna reschedule, in fact we're gonna move forward and there's nothing you can do."

Dunphy's neighbor Sean Venezia got the notice too. "I said you can't do this now, everybody's trapped in their homes," recalls Venezia.

He says his kids will miss online classes, groceries will spoil.

"Think of all the food and meat people are stocking up in their freezers so they don't have to go to the store over and over again," Venezia says. "Then they're gonna shut the power from nine to five? You can't do that. She said too bad..."

I-TEAM: History of PG&E's power problems

PG&E said it did receive many complaints, but the work must be done as fire season looms, threatening the next crisis. The company said it could not reschedule but: "We understand the impacts of a service interruption given the current stay-at-home orders, and we apologize for any disruption or hardship these outages may cause."

"I guess the only other worse thing that could happen is they could turn off the water," says Dunphy.

Well, that's exactly what will happen to Kathy Patton of Orinda.

"When we lose our power we lose our water too, so when we don't have electricity, we don't have water either," explains Patton.

Without power, the pump for her drainage system won't work, so they can't run the water or there'll be a big backup.

"No showering, no flushing toilets, no washing your hands... you can wash your hands but it's harder. You can't let the water go down the drain," says Patton.

RELATED: More than 80,000 wildfire victims file claims against PG&E

And with sheltering in place, there's nowhere to go for relief.

"I know there's a lot of people out there in a lot worse situations... but this feels just unnecessary," Patton says.

PG&E told Kathy her power will be shut down not just tomorrow, but two additional days this month!

"I'm just really dreading it. Not having power and not having anywhere to go -- it's a conflict being told to say in your house and have your house taken away from you at the same time," she says.

ABC7 News has reached out to PG&E for a response to these planned outages but has not heard back yet.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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