Ongoing power outages leave thousands in Bay Area longing for sense of 'normalcy' to return

ByZach Fuentes and Lauren Martinez KGO logo
Friday, March 17, 2023
Many in Bay Area longing for 'normalcy' amid ongoing power outages
Ongoing power outages leave thousands in Bay Area longing for a sense of "normalcy" to return.

LOS ALTOS, Calif. (KGO) -- It has been days since thousands of people in Bay Area have had power.

The widespread outages are just some of the effects lingering from the latest storm, particularly for a huge portion of the South Bay and Peninsula.

At the height of the storm, PG&E says 140,000 customers in Santa Clara County were without power.

Days later many are still in the dark -- the outages virtually shutting down places like Downtown Los Altos.

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

"Bad for business," said Sherwin Sand, a Los Altos business manager, "But there's nothing we can do."

Residents in Saratoga, like Judy Moring, are dealing with the impacts as best as they can.

But even with a home well-equipped with lanterns and other provisions, Moring says the steps she's taken can only go so far.

"The hard part is losing your all your food in your refrigerator, because at this point, I have to throw away a lot," she said. "Even with keeping a lot of ice in there."

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A free cookout event was held for first responders and residents in Los Altos dealing with the days-long power outages.

The Chamber of Commerce, JW Catering and downtown restaurant The Post hosted the free cookout event Thursday afternoon.

Sally Meadows, Mayor of Los Altos, said 70% to 75% of Los Altos lost power from Tuesday's storm.

"They pulled together to say lets thank our first responders. And lets also use the food we don't want to go to waste," Meadows said.

Los Altos resident Fran Vella attended the cookout hoping to get an update on when power would be restored. She heard Thursday night or longer.

"So we've managed but I'm getting tired of it. And you know not having a stove not having heat - you get used to these things you don't realize until you don't have them," Vella said.

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

Peak winds hit the Bay Area during this week's winter storm, the strongest ever recorded, according to National Weather Service.

In one Los Altos neighborhood, a woman and her family packed up the car to stay somewhere else for the night.

Thankfully for David Zensius and his wife, their neighbor has a generator and let them connect using extension cords.

"Well it powers up the refrigerator and that's the most important thing," Zensius said.

The longtime Los Altos residents said they've never gone this long without power.

"I cannot remember a day and we've been here since 86," Zensius said.

By 8 p.m. Thursday, power was restored to the majority of downtown Los Altos.

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

According to PG&E's outage map, power is estimated to return to some Los Altos neighborhoods as late as Sunday.

PG&E says it's been working consistently to restore power to everyone as fast as possible, an incident management team is coordinating crews and other resources to expedite restoration.

The utility company though admitting, that the storms have had them facing tough conditions.

"There were some areas that we couldn't access because of safety issues," said PG&E Spokesperson Mayra Tostado. "At one point, because we did see wind gusts that exceeded 90 miles per hour, our crews had to stand down because it wasn't safe for them to get work done."

As the work continues to fix the short-term issues, the back-to-back storms have brought attention to what's being done to help infrastructure withstand more storms.

With the wind being a main culprit in these more recent outages, ABC7 asked PG&E about the possibility of investing more into underground power lines.

MORE: Video shows glass falling from SF skyscraper after window broken due to intense wind gusts

Video shows broken window glass falling from San Francisco high-rise on 555 California Street during Tuesday's intense wind gusts.

Though no clear timeline or plans were given, the utility company says not even underground lines have been safe from these storms.

"Not only has vegetation broken our power poles and power lines that are above ground, but flooding and landslides have caused damage to underground facilities as well," Tostado said.

Still PG&E says it is working with engineers, local government and other agencies to better invest in infrastructure.

For now, homeowners like Moring are just ready and waiting for their life to get back to normal.

"On day three, you start getting a little grumpier," she said, "Because the mornings are cold and I want my cup of coffee."

PG&E says they expect about 90% of customers without power to be restored by Thursday night.

The last 10%, it says, will be more challenging because of accessibility issues like flooded roads.

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