'What can we do?' Thousands across South Bay grapple with extended power outages amid storm cleanup

ByLena Howland, Lauren Martinez KGO logo
Friday, March 17, 2023
Thousands across South Bay grapple with extended power outages
Along with restaurants and businesses, the extended South Bay power outages have affected gas stations, ATMs, and stoplights.

LOS ALTOS, Calif. (KGO) -- Tens of thousands of families and businesses are still without power across the Bay Area.

A total of more than 43,000 customers were in the dark at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning, two full days after Tuesday's storm.

As for getting power restored, it could still take days for some in the South Bay.

As the sound of generators fill the air, downtown Los Altos transformed into a ghost town with most businesses shuttered and a few surviving solely off generators.

RELATED: Live storm updates: More than 43K Bay Area PG&E customers still without power

"What can we do? We just have to sit it out," David Chan, a Los Altos visitor said.

Meanwhile, power outages have meant even more complications for the city. Gas stations are unable to pump gas without power, and the same for ATMs and stop lights, which caused a bit of gridlock for morning commuters. Every single light is now being treated as a four-way stop.

"Difficult, difficult, really," Sherwin Sand, a Los Altos business manager said. "Because I have to stop and wait for each traffic light would take about five minutes."

PG&E says at one point during Tuesday's atmospheric river, 468,000 customers across the Bay Area lost power, the worst system-wide outage in a single day in nearly 30 years.

RELATED: Redwood tree topples onto Los Altos elementary school classroom injuring student

"Their crews must be up to their eyeballs with work," Steve, a Los Altos resident said.

Some Los Altos customers were told their power wouldn't be restored until 10 p.m. Friday night.

"It's kind of disappointing, I don't know this for a fact but I get the idea that there's been a lot of deferred maintenance," Steve said. "There are numerous telephone poles that are tilted up there, and I think they're trying to work through that."

As some restaurant owners bring in refrigeration trucks, just to keep some of their food from spoiling, others don't have that option.

"Bad for business but there's nothing we can do so just have to stay positive," Sand said.

Power outage costs South Bay restaurants thousands

One South Bay restaurant owner says he's lost at least $34,000 in produce alone from the recent power outages.

Vickie Breslin, owner of The Post restaurant, said she lost power Tuesday afternoon. Friends rallied to help late into the night, one friend even took an Uber with bags of dry ice.

By Wednesday morning Breslin said her manager was able to rent a 28-foot refrigeration truck so her food wouldn't spoil.

"We temperature-checked everything and got it in and started asking our neighbors if they needed to store anything too," Breslin said. Two nearby restaurants took her offer.

Breslin said this loss of business for more than a day is significant. Especially during March Madness, a break from the rain, and St. Patty's day coming up.

Breslin held an a community BBQ Thursday night with JW Catering and the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce.

Kim Mosley with the Chamber said this is a 'thank you' event to city staff, emergency responders and storm crews.

Breslin said this event provided shifts for her staff and a moment to turn things around for a good cause.

VIDEO: Pleasanton church among East Bay storm damage

It just took seconds and the side of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Pleasanton was crushed by a falling tree.

"I can cry about this or we can turn it into something positive for the community and for everybody around because you know what else are you going to do," Breslin said.

Longtime restaurant owner Jan Unlu of Caff La Scala had no luck finding a generator. He wished there was some kind of city resource that could help. In all of this years the power had never been off for this long.

"35 years, never happened, the most 24 hours a day," Unlu said.

He rented a refrigeration truck as well. He said half of the food he saved he'll have to end up throwing away. He projects a total loss of business and food will cost him $34,000.

RELATED: Peak winds hit Bay Area during this week's winter storm; Loma Prieta reaches gusty record, NWS says

"It doesn't help too much if you just save the food," Unlu said.

At Therapy Salon, co-owner Todd Zebb said there's a loss of income, having to reschedule clients and work for their stylists.

"I have single and single moms, so it's hard for them too. So now we might have to reschedule Sunday or Monday when we're closed or they have to stay later," Zebb said.

PG&E is assuring customers they have more than 1,700 crews, including some being brought in from other parts of the state, to repair damage mostly caused by falling debris and get the lights back on.

"We are moving heaven and earth here, all of our crews are out working and trying to get you back in lights as quickly as possible," Aaron Johnson, a PG&E Regional Vice President said.

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