PG&E sends Grass Valley workers to New York |

PG&E sends Grass Valley workers to New York

People survey damage to beachfront houses in Long Beach Island, N.J., Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. New Jersey received the brunt of superstorm Sandy, which made landfall in the state and killed six people. More than 2 million customers were without power as of Wednesday afternoon, down from a peak of 2.7 million. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Inquirer, Ed Hille) PHIX OUT; TV OUT; MAGS OUT; NEWARK OUT
AP | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Two Grass Valley-based Pacific Gas and Electric Company employees are among more than 150 of the service provider’s personnel sent to New York to help restore power in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Crews from all over PG&E’s Northern and Central California service area will depart from Sacramento within the next couple of days.

The two Grass Valley workers were in New York Wednesday after leaving Sacramento Tuesday, said Spokesperson Brandi Ehlers. Along with them was one employee from Auburn, 14 from Marysville and six from Rocklin.

Millions of families tried to adjust to life without modern conveniences Wednesday, two full days after superstorm Sandy ripped through the Northeast and blacked out some of the nation’s most densely populated cities and suburbs.

While utilities struggled to restore power — a massive job they warned could last well into next week — homes grew chilly without heat, food spoiled in refrigerators and people everywhere scurried for a spot to charge their cell phones.

Sandy’s footprint was enormous, knocking down wires and rendering other critical equipment useless across a huge span of the country, from Virginia to Massachusetts and as far west as the Great Lakes.

“Providing support to other utilities throughout the nation during major natural disasters is one of the hallmarks of PG&E and the electric utility industry,” said Geisha Williams, executive vice president of electric operations, in a statement.

“The men and women of PG&E are proud to help restore power to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, who are expected to experience widespread and long-term outages.”

PG&E has coordinated with Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the association of U.S. shareholder-owned electric companies, and the Mutual Aid Network to determine where its assistance would be most beneficial. PG&E resources will assist Con Edison in New York City and Westchester County.

“It’s unprecedented: fallen trees, debris, the roads, water, snow. It’s a little bit of everything,” said Brian Wolff, senior vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, a group that lobbies for utilities, in an interview with The Associated Press.

For power companies, the scale of the destruction was unmatched.

The damage is more widespread than any blizzard or ice storm. And it’s worse than the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As many as 10 states along the Eastern Seaboard — Virginia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, as well as Washington, DC, — have declared states of emergency. Additionally, New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Connecticut have announced evacuations in certain parts of their states.

About 60 million people were initially without power in 8.2 million homes and businesses.

By Wednesday night, that number had fallen to roughly 44 million people in 6 million households and businesses.

Even as power slowly returned to some pockets, a new headache emerged: Backup batteries and generators running cell phone towers were running out of juice. One out of every five towers was down, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

That — plus more people relying on their cell phones to stay connected — overwhelmed the system in some areas, making it hard to place calls.

Many utility companies in the storm’s projected path are calling upon extra workers and resources from across the country through the industry’s Mutual Aid Network. PG&E is part of the network of U.S. utilities that call on one another to assist in power restoration efforts after major events like hurricanes, winter storms and wildfires.

PG&E will sent overhead and underground maintenance and construction crews, electric first responders who determine the cause of an outage and how best to restore power and damage assessment personnel, the utility said in a statement. Logistics support and field safety personnel were also sent.

“We pulled crews from throughout our service area so that we can continue to provide safe, reliable and affordable electric service to our customers here in California while also providing critical restoration assistance in New York,” Williams said.

The cleanup cost for utilities adds up fast. There’s travel, food and labor costs for all those of out-of-state workers, plus overtime pay.

The Associated Press’ Jonathan Fahey and Scott Mayerowitz contributed to this report. To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call (530) 477-4236.

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