Lights Out, California!

As I type this from the comfort of a warm office with electricity, light, and internet access, more than 600,000 of my fellow Californians are currently without power in an effort to prevent sparking wildfires.

Many of my friends and family members in Calaveras County have been affected by the first PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff, or PSPS.

The hours leading up to the PSPS, which was initially slated for midnight Wednesday, Oct. 9, were charged in much of the state with activity, grocery store shelves going bare within a few hours of the initial PSPS announcement Tuesday, Oct. 8.

In much of Calaveras County, gas stations ran out of fuel one after another in quick succession as the clock wound down, with lines at the pumps snaking down highway corridors as people filled gas cans and vehicles.

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“It looked like some kind of apocalypse out there,” one friend said on a phone call after attempting to buy a few last-minute supplies in the small town of Arnold, met with urgent crowds stripping the shelves of bottled water and emergency candles.

As residents in the “Phase Two” zone woke up the next day to power and hot coffee, the community held its breath, hoping to be exempt from the PSPS, or at least to know exactly when the shutoff would take place. After a few false starts, thousands in the area eventually lost power around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Luckily, in the rural community of Arnold, much like in Portola, residents are used to dealing with potential winter outages and are getting through this with generators and good humor amidst the grumblings at the necessity for the “drastic move,” as it is being dubbed by many — but not without worry at economic effect if this outage continues for long.

California Governor Gavin Newsom expressed a fair amount of frustration at the state of affairs during a broadcast on Wednesday, commenting on the economic toll the outage is taking on many, including himself.

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Newsom agreed that PG&E is taking appropriate measures under the circumstances, but underlined that with the comment that he felt PG&E would not be in the current position that they are in if the utility had “done their job over the last few decades and invested in their infrastructure and transmission lines,” going on to state that shutoffs of this magnitude should never happen again.

Many in the state currently without power agree strongly with Newsom’s sentiments, and the internet has been abuzz with angry customers that cannot access updates on the PG&E website due to continued crashing.

The level of frustration over the shutoffs may also be indicated by events such as the shooting of a PG&E workers’ truck in Colusa County, currently under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.

As of yet, no state of emergency has been declared, and Newsom has stated that the budget for the year has $75 million in funds earmarked for the up to 34 communities to be potentially affected by the shutoffs.

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While we in Plumas County are thankfully largely unaffected by this outage, events like these are always a good reminder to be prepared, and ready.gov has a pretty good list of things to remember during an outage.

The first is to keep in mind that a power outage is likely to disrupt communications, water and transportation, which in turn, can disrupt everything — so patience is necessary.

Another key thing to remember — if at all possible, keep cash on hand because those debit cards, while convenient, are not power-outage friendly.

Plumas Sierra Rural Electric also has some good tips on preparation for outages on their website psrec.coop, from items to keep on hand to ways for business owners to prepare and keep their shop doors open.

Now, let’s just hope that by the time this is being read, the “Great PG&E Apocalypse of 2019” will be over with. Until the next time, at least.

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