From Santa Rosa to Cloverdale, residents persevere without electricity – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

From Santa Rosa to Cloverdale, residents persevere without electricity - Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Santa Rosa feeling the pain of power shut offs
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Doug and Joan Jones, who live in Santa Rosas Oakmont community, flipped through a newspaper reading quietly to themselves Wednesday afternoon as they sat in a large white tent in the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building parking lot.

Inside the tent, a makeshift community resource center put up by PG&E, the couple recharged the batteries in a portable oxygen device that Doug Jones, 86, uses to help him breathe after undergoing lung surgery in July.

Though the couple has a larger oxygen device in their home, it was useless during the utilitys planned power shut-off, which cut electricity to an estimated 40% of Sonoma Countys 500,000 residents.

In the past few days, the couple had been considering buying a generator and even hired an electrician to help them determine what kind would be best for them, Joan Jones, 81, said. It was too late, however, to avert having their home go dark Wednesday.

Bennett Valley Union School District, Cloverdale Unified School District, Kashia School District, Geyserville Unified School District: Closed Thursday, Oct. 10.

By the time we knew what we wanted to buy, (the stores) were all out, Doug Jones said. Were hoping that PG&E gets their act together and turns the power back on.

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Video: PG&E is doing what they do I guess: those affected by power-outages fill up on gas in preparation

The couple were among the 26,000 Santa Rosa customers — and more than 200,000 people countywide — affected by PG&Es intentional shut-off, a precautionary tactic to reduce the risk of its power lines sparking a wildfire.

See the list below for what we know so far about which schools will close or reopen Thursday and Friday.

Many area residents took the preemptive measure in stride, while others responded with frustration and anxiety realizing power restoration wont begin until Thursday afternoon and it could take up to five days to finish the process.

Old Adobe Union Districts Sonoma Mountain and Old Adobe Charter Schools: Closed Thursday, Oct. 10.

With more than 30,000 county children home from schools because classes were canceled Wednesday, and many campuses opting to remain closed Thursday, parents of younger students were left wondering how to occupy them.

Video: Santa Rosa PG&E customers sitting in the dark

Mireya Sanchez, a pharmacy technician who lives in an apartment complex near Howarth Park, said she was forced to stay home from work because she could not arrange for anyone to watch her children.

Sanchez, whose home was without power, on Wednesday afternoon took her youngest kids and a neighbors son to Howarth Park to play.

Though the cause of the most violent blaze, the Tubbs fire, remains in dispute, the remaining 2017 fires as well as last years deadly Camp fire in Butte County were linked to damaged power equipment owned by PG&E, now mired in civil litigation and bankruptcy proceedings. The totality helped spur the companys adoption of preemptive shutdowns similar to those long used in Southern California during periods of high winds.

They had no school and theres no electricity, so I had to bring them out a couple of hours. And theres no internet at home, she said.

The power shut-off affected a large number of residents on the east side of Santa Rosa, including Rincon Valley. At the Safeway on Calistoga Road and Highway 12, shoppers in search of ice, food and batteries were redirected to the Safeway on Fourth Street.

Im just sitting here wondering why PG&E turned off our power so far ahead of any need for it, said Klepper, a retired guitar-maker who lost his home and shop in the Nuns fire of 2017. He acknowledged the possibility that an outage could prevent similar catastrophic fires, but conditions were much more severe then than they are now.

At the Montecito Center on Montecito Boulevard and Middle Rincon Road, Rod Fernandez, owner of Santa Rosa Pool Service, took the temporary blackout in stride.

We understand the impact that turning (off) power has on our customers and our communities, Sumeet Singh, vice president of PG&Es Community Wildfire Safety Program, said during a news conference Thursday evening. This is not a decision we take lightly, and we thank our customers and our communities for your patience.

Fernandez, who has worked in pool services for 35 years, said his employees still were making service calls to customers residences Wednesday. However, the retail shop was closed.

Staff Writers Chantelle Lee and Martin Espinoza contributed to this story. You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com, Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com, and Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com.

Our operation is still going on. Its just the retail thats out of commission, Fernandez said.

At Oakmont Village Market, owners Laura and Dave Arcado were trying to stem theirs, using a portable generator from their fifth-wheel camper to keep their store operating despite the darkened homes around them. In preparation for the power outage, they also had purchased about 200 pounds of dry ice to keep perishables cold.

He said the power outage would have to last several days to hurt his business financially. The inconvenience is nothing compared to the financial losses he suffered two years ago after the North Bay fires, particularly from the customers whose homes were destroyed in Santa Rosas Fountaingrove neighborhood.

Public safety power shutoffs have a role to play when theyre needed to prevent massive wildfires and the huge human and economic costs weve seen in recent years, Dodd said. However, many of my constituents are disturbed that the power was shut down before the winds started to pick up in the North Bay.

I lost a lot of accounts, about 20% of business, he said. Weve been recovering from that for two years.

Next to Fernandezs shop, business was brisk at the Taqueria Santa Rosa. A generator was powering lights in the kitchen, refrigerator and the range.

A limited menu was offered to the lunch crowd, which included construction workers and other customers owner Lorena Anaya said she hadnt seen in a while.

We gotta do what we gotta do to keep our customers happy and not throw away food, Anaya said, indicating she was going to be open until 3 p.m. Wednesday.

In Cloverdale, the countys northernmost city, the partial power outage suited Tim Karis just fine. The southern third of the city, primarily south of Brookside Drive, was dark.

We had a really busy morning, said Karis, manager of Plank Coffee in the tidy downtown area. The stylish shop was nearly full at lunch, and Karis figured he was drawing customers from his only competition, a Starbucks at the south end of town closed by PG&Es blackout.

Two students whose home was without power sat at one end of a long, well-lit table with refreshments at hand.

Rory Kluesener, 18, a senior at Windsor High School who lives in Cloverdale, was working on calculus with a laptop. Im doing OK, he said of the math course. I got a B-plus and Im trying to get that A so Im studying.

Lydia Barnes, his 15-year-old niece who is home-schooled, was reading The Iliad, an ancient Greek poem attributed to Homer, and jotting down answers to questions.

Many of his fellow students, Kluesener said, likely were spending the day off from school at the Russian River.

Michel Arenales and Marisol Hernandez had brunch at a sidewalk table in front of Planks coffee shop. Their home lost power around 3 a.m. Wednesday, while Arenales was working late. But they were ready, having received a text message from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. alerting them of the planned outage.

We prepared ourselves, Arenales said, citing the flashlights, radio and food in an ice chest they had on hand. We learned our lesson in terms of emergency preparation from the 2017 wildfires, he said.

Back at PG&Es community resource center in Santa Rosa, Barney Krebs, a 61-year-old Bennett Valley resident who works as an independent contractor for a pharmaceutical company, tried to get some work done.

While the outage was an inconvenience, it was no comparison to his harrowing experience two years ago when the fires forced him to evacuate his home. Still, he wondered if there was a way for PG&E to avoid turning off power to so many customers as the main part of its fire-prevention strategy.

Im understanding, but I wonder if its really necessary to shut off suburban areas that dont seem to be close to an area that might burn, Krebs said.


Posted in Santa Rosa