East Bay businesses struggle to stay open amid PG&E power outages

ByRyan Curry KGO logo
Monday, September 20, 2021
East Bay restaurants struggle amid power outages
Thousands of Bay Area PG&E customers are without power after rain moved through the region overnight.

EL CERRITO, Calif. (KGO) -- By mid-morning on Sunday, power outages caused by the Bay Area's first bout of heavy fog and drizzle after a long dry spell continued to affect the region, especially the East Bay.

As of 10 a.m., more than 26,000 customers around the region were still affected, according to PG&E spokesperson Karly Hernandez.

The majority were in the East Bay, where more than 22,000 customers were affected, most of them in the Richmond, San Pablo and El Cerrito areas.

"We woke up and noticed the lights were not on," said Phurba Sherpa, the owner of Tashi Delek in El Cerrito. "We called PG&E and they told me they don't know when power will be back. So we made the decision to close."

PG&E says the light rain caused dirt on power lines to turn to mud, which they say conducts electricity and causes outages.

"We have cleaning crews that take care of the lines," said Deanna Contreras, a spokesperson with PG&E. "It has been a long dry spell and the first rainfall or mist creates problems."

Sherpa says he had to only serve 20% of his menu. He didn't want to open his refrigerators and let hot air from his kitchen contaminate the food. Due to this issue, he cancelled one reservation and might have to cancel others.

"If we don't get the power back, we will have to cancel most of the dinner rush," Sherpa said.

The hard for him is not knowing when the power will come back

"PG&E never gave me a timetable," he said. "When I heard that I knew it was best just to close till I know."

Around the rest of the region, 2,100 customers were affected in San Francisco and 2,000 on the Peninsula. Less than 100 customers were affected in the North and South bays.

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The outages began Saturday night and crews are working to restore power, according to PG&E.

Power lines and equipment that accrue dust, dirt, salt and other substances after a long dry period are affected when the first mist or fog arrives. The buildup turns into mud, which can contribute to electrical flashovers and cause outages. Arcing can also cause outages, when there is enough dust and particulate in the air near power lines.

PG&E's line-washing program is for larger electric transmission lines, so such outages tend to impact distribution systems serving local neighborhoods, a spokesperson said.

In Richmond there were 29 locations that saw outages due to flashovers, affecting more than 9,000 customers. In San Pablo there are 16 locations, affecting 2,600 customers.

PG&E crews continue to work safely and as quickly as possible to restore power to customers.

Bay City News contributed to this report.