Bay Area residents feel burden of PG&E shutoffs as some remain in the dark in North, South Bay

ByABC7 News Staff KGO logo
Friday, October 16, 2020
North Bay residents weather the heat, darkness amid PG&E power shutoffs
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In St. Helena, residents say the warm weather is made tougher without air conditioning during the PG&E power shutoff.

ST. HELENA, Calif. (KGO) -- More than 30,000 Pacific Gas and Electric customers remain without power Thursday night due to critical fire conditions in the Bay Area.

During a briefing Thursday night, PG&E said it had already restored power to some customers and would continue that process through Friday.

MAP: See areas impacted by PG&E power shutoffs

Officials say power should be fully restored by Friday morning but that depends ultimately depends on the weather.

About 10,000 are expected to have power restored by Thursday night. PG&E says 8,000 have already been restored and another 2,000 are expected this evening.

PG&E said late Thursday that a total of 41,000 customers have lost power during this shutoff, substantially less than the 53,000 the utility estimated earlier this week.

In St. Helena, residents say the warm weather is made tougher without air conditioning during the power shutoff.

"The heat is tough without AC you know we're managing but tonight is going to be a tough one," says Chris Muessel, who is without power due to the shutoff.

On Thursday night, he's dealing with very dark conditions because he is without a generator.

ABC7's JR Stone ran into Muessel at a gas station in St. Helena where he was getting a propane tank so his family can grill food.

"We went to three places and they were all out of propane so I guess a lot of people are in similar situations as us," says Muessel.

As for the Bay Area, PG&E officials say the majority of the power has been restored to customers except for some in the South Bay. They say conditions Thursday night are not expected to improve, therefore, the power will remain off until at least Friday.

For those in the East Bay, although power has been restored, some voiced their frustrations with the Public Safety Power Shutoffs.

VIDEO: Some Walnut Creek residents frustrated with PG&E over power outage

Michelle Foster said her family of four lost power Wednesday night and no power means no school for her children.

"Their class is still going to go on without them, and that makes me sad," Foster said. "I will pull their workbooks out, and we will get some stuff done. I already emailed the teachers yesterday when I got the alert, that we may not be in class."

PG&E alerts were sent to residents to warn them that power would be shut off across the state due to the threat of wildfires. The company's downed powers lines have sparked massive wildfires over the last few years, fueled along by high winds.

What frustrates Foster is that in her neighborhood, even though power lines are underground, their power was still shut off.

"I just feel maybe if we could figure how to find where (the underground line) stops and (where) it is above ground, we can fix that. And then we wouldn't all have to have our power out," Foster said.

In Oakland's Montclair neighborhood, Richard Buijs set up his own solution to the power shutoffs.

Not only has he set up a generator to supply power to his own house, but he lets his neighbors plug in as well.

"I can run two of our own refrigerators and our two neighbor's refrigerators," said Buijs.

In prior years, he said he usually only ran it for a few hours a day, in the morning and in the evening.

Now that his wife is working from home, he tries to keep it going through the whole workday.

"The router needs power," said Buijs.

Montclair Village and other parts of the Oakland Hills had no power Thursday due to the PG&E shutoffs.

Many businesses knew it was coming and posted signs on their doors, alerting customers that they would be closed.

VIDEO: Oakland business owner does work 'the old fashioned way' amid power outage

Julia Laval, owner of Montclair Optical, decided to come to work anyway. She said even without the lights on, she was able to work on her taxes.

"The old fashioned way," she laughed, as she filled out forms with a calculator on pen and paper.

In another part of the East Bay, the power shutoffs impacted more than 6,000 customers in parts of Danville, Dublin, Oakland and Walnut Creek.

Val Jensen tried to go for a walk at the nearby Shell Ridge Open Space, but he says it was closed due to the Red Flag Warning.

Jensen said the lights are still on at his house, and while he understands why the power is being shut off across the state, he adds that he doesn't like how California progressed to this point.

"For the prices we pay in California for electricity, to have the utility able to just shut it off because it can't control its own system, I think is not right," explained Jensen, who has lived in Walnut Creek for the past 20 years.

As for the Foster family, Michelle said, when so many are struggling, it's important to have some perspective.

"It's not going to be easy, but we can make it work. (We) have a roof over our heads. I have running water. I have the means to drive down to Safeway. We can make it work," says Foster.

In the North Bay, residents are divided by those who have power and others who do not.

This morning, neither Nut Tree Lane nor Victoria Court in the town of Sonoma, on different grids, provided perfect worlds.

"Internet? Right about here," noted Rhonda Berger as she stood in the middle of Victoria Court.

Even with power, she and her neighbors had no Comcast internet.

"We're operating in a vacuum," said Rick Baggelaar, across the street. "We couldn't receive an alert if we needed it."

Nor could Berger's daughter, Grace, attend class on Zoom. She kept tapping her iPad, hopefully, but no luck.

"So you're a kid who wants to be in school and you can't be in school?" ABC7's Wayne Freedman asked.

VIDEO: 'We're operating in a vacuum': Sonoma residents describe difficulties of navigating life during power outage

"Well it depends on what class," Grace replied.

As of midday, PG&E reported 1,800 meters without power in Sonoma County.

That might not sound like a lot compared with other shutoffs, but if you're impacted?

"It's to the point where you don't think you can run your own life," Nancy Bei told ABC7 outside her home on Nut Tree Lane.

She lives on the other side of the fence. Her refrigerator remains packed with ice from the last shutdown.

"Two days? We can try. Beyond that? Unbearable. It's to the point where you can't run your own life."

Then, Bei pointed to the trees.

"Do you see any wind? There is no wind! Not a leaf has fallen. Well, maybe one."

A day without electricity can lead to such exasperation.

Ben Rook spent a small fortune on solar power and a battery system that failed to kick in.

ABC7 asked his level of frustration on a scale of one to 10.

"Call it a 12 because I spent $12,000 to have this installed," he said.

For Ben, plan B, meant sitting in one of PG&E's community resource centers with ample power and internet.

First world problems? Sure.

And yet, after many repetitions, this has begun to feel like a third world routine.