Nevada County businesses suffer during PG&E power shutdown (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY) | TheUnion.com

Nevada County businesses suffer during PG&E power shutdown (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY)

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

UPDATE:

Some portions of western Nevada County have had power restored by PG&E, including The Union office in the Glenbrook Basin of Grass Valley.

ORIGINAL STORY:

“PG&E’s got to figure something out,” said downtown Grass Valley resident Ron Veglia.

Veglia relies on a heart monitor and said he’s going to get gas in Truckee before heading to the Bay Area to stay in a motel. He didn’t think the weather warranted a fire risk and the simultaneous power shutoffs from PG&E.

“I couldn’t even fly a kite yesterday,” he said Thursday.

About 43,000 customers have had no power since early Wednesday in western Nevada County, and around 600,000 customers had no power in northern and central California as of Thursday morning.

PG&E will be waiting for an “all clear” before it is safe to send patrols to survey power lines.

The utility company on Thursday afternoon called a partial or full “all clear” for 14 counties. It didn’t list Nevada County, though county officials on their website said PG&E had given them a partial “all clear.” The county’s Office of Emergency Services said PG&E had verbally confirmed the partial “all clear.”

Contacted Thursday afternoon, PG&E spokesperson Brandi Merlo said her company is working closely with the state Office of Emergency Services along with cities and counties. She declined to confirm Nevada County’s partial “all clear.”

“As soon as we can confirm information, we will be happy to do so,” Merlo said.

Merlo gave no estimate for when the power will be turned on in Nevada County.

The National Weather Service of Sacramento reported “extreme” fire weather conditions were expected to last through Thursday. “High” impact fire weather is anticipated today in the foothills and mountain region.

The weather service expected low humidity levels of around 5% to 15% Thursday, and strong winds in the valley from around 15 to 30 miles per hour. Overall wind conditions are expected to slow by today.

CONSEQUENCES

Many businesses were closed Thursday, and many of their employees and managers weren’t pleased.

“It sucks, man,” said Balraj Singh, owner of Grass Valley’s Cig Mart. “How many days (do) we have to pay our rent off?” he asked.

Cig Mart has remained open despite being without power. Still, Singh said his shop is losing $3,000 to $4,000 each day due to the power outage.

SPD Market in Nevada City was closed, but employees could be seen milling about the shop, storing food in freezer trucks and helping the store in any way they could.

“What it means for SPD is we’re losing a lot of product, but we’re also saving a lot of product,” said head clerk Kyle Mead, who has been at SPD since 2005.

Approximately tens of thousands of dollars were lost due to the outages. Employees, too, are struggling, Mead said.

“It’s hurting me because we’re not working and I count on 40-hour weeks for my paycheck,” he added.

Over 100 people are employed at the combined Grass Valley and Nevada City SPDs. Those individuals will need to use their paid time off days to make up for their lost work, said Mead.

He understood why PG&E was shutting off power, but said it’s painful to glance outside and notice a dearth of wind.

Restaurant manager Lisa Cammack at Nevada City’s Lefty’s Grill said she employs 40 individuals who can’t work due to the outages, but who still need to pay their rent. Cammack said the restaurant is incurring losses of $10,000 each day.

“PG&E needs to seriously help the businesses to recuperate from this,” said Cammack. She was surprised that the shutoffs are occurring in a developed country.

“Come on,” she said, “this is the United States.”

The utility company will not be reimbursing businesses for their losses due to the power outages, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Closures

County schools were closed for the second day on Thursday. Pleasant Ridge School District Superintendent Rusty Clark said employees were in the district office getting caught up on work. The office had power, despite the neighboring Magnolia Intermediate School being without it.

“This will be the new norm,” said Clark. “As a society, in particular in California, we’re going to have to learn how to manage through some of these challenges.”

For now, Clark said the state Department of Education has provisions to hedge against lost days, but schools may have to make up days later into the summer due to the outages.

Nevada County schools receive about $47 per student per day. The Penn Valley school district has about 400 students, leading to losses of about $20,000 each day. The district already has had to close school for power outages in September.

One of the issues schools face is spoiled food, said Lay. The superintendent didn’t know how much the lost food would cost school districts. Some schools have backup generators, said Lay, but the majority don’t.

The county office will consider purchasing generators to prevent against future closures, but Lay anticipates the costs of this technology increasing due to the rising demand.

The county office still has not received guidance from the state about how school districts should make up the missed school days, Lay said.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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