Nevada County preps for potential PG&E power shutoff; decision to be made Wednesday morning
UPDATE at 9:20 a.m. Wednesday
The Nevada County Office of Emergency Services says western Nevada County will be affected by a planned shutoff:
PG&E has confirmed that they will be turning off power for much of Western Nevada County around 2PM today, 10/23. Restoration is forecast to begin at noon on Thursday, 10/24. Full restoration is expected by sundown Friday 10/25 with majority of residents receiving power by Thursday night.
As the clock ticked down toward a Public Safety Power Shutoff potentially set to start this afternoon, Nevada County residents swarmed gas stations and hardware stores in search of fuel, flashlights and batteries, and extension cords.
“It’s been unbelievable,” said Hills Flat Assistant Store Manager Steve Waldron Tuesday afternoon, with customers lined up to ask about generators as they were being unloaded, assembled, gassed up and tested. “We made a rush to Reno this afternoon to pick some more up. We had three on the floor when I left last night and when I got to work at eight this morning, they were gone.”
The Grass Valley store brought in eight generators Tuesday afternoon and was expecting more by early evening, Waldron said.
“We’ve been getting calls from all over the county,” he said. “People are desperate.”
Hills Flat was completely sold out of five-gallon gas containers and had been referring customers to local auto parts stores. Other items in hot demand included surge protectors, coolers, lamp oil, camp stoves and propane, Waldron said.
“We ran out of a lot of these things last time,” he added.
Hills Flat is planning to start carrying propane whole-house generators with switches that can be installed by electricians, Waldron said, adding, “This is going to be the new normal, unfortunately.”
One of the customers waiting for a generator was Darrol Tripp, looking to bolster the power supply for Tripp’s Auto Body before today.
“This is just going to put a Band-Aid on my situation, just to at least get the computers functioning,” he said. “My long-term (solution) will be a $40,000 investment to run the whole shop.”
Victoria D’Orazi-Manning was in the store with her husband to buy flashlights, batteries, and gasoline for their generator.
She admitted with a laugh they didn’t use it during the last planned outage because it was “deep inside” their storage unit.
This time, D’Orazi-Manning said, they were “absolutely” more prepared.
“I think we’re going to be good,” she said.
D’Orazi-Manning said there were a few wrinkles during the last power outage she plans to iron out.
“I would have liked to have more lanterns and lamps,” she said. “We had enough food, but ice was a problem.”
The biggest problem the couple ran into?
“Coffee,” she said. “Seriously.”
At a 5:30 p.m. Tuesday briefing PG&E officials reiterated they had not formally called for a Public Safety Power Shutoff.
“We expect to make that decision (this) morning,” Director of Wildfire Operations Mark Quinlan said.
High winds still are predicted to start around 5 p.m. today for the Sierra foothills, he said.
Quinlan said PG&E has been able to narrow the scope of the planned shutoff, dropping the total number of affected customers from 209,000 to 189,000.
But Nevada County’s overall numbers have increased, from 37,000 to 42,401 customers. Areas listed as being affected include Grass Valley, Nevada City, Chicago Park, North San Juan, Penn Valley, Rough And Ready and Washington.
Should power be shut off, PG&E will open Community Resource Centers at Sierra College and Penn Valley Community Church, officials said. The centers will provide restrooms, bottled water, electronic-device charging and air-conditioned seating. The centers will be accessible to customers with functional needs and will be staffed from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. until the areas are fully restored to power.
According to Quinlan, PG&E expects to get the all-clear on the wind event by noon Thursday and will then start restoring power to the affected customers.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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