More than a million people in California were without electricity Wednesday as the state's largest utility pulled the plug to prevent a repeat of the past two years when windblown power lines sparked deadly wildfires that destroyed thousands of homes.
Downtown Grass Valley was dark on Wednesday amid a Public Safety Power Shut-off by PG&E.
Neighbors have dealt with shutoffs before, but say they’re frustrated. They’re wondering if this is the new normal.
“This is the first year we’ve had to do this,” Linda Cardona said.
She filled her bathtub with water not to bathe, but to use as a water supply to flush her toilet.
“Spare our water as much as we can,” she said.
Her home in the town of Rough and Ready runs on a well system. When the power is out, so is their water.
“I don’t know how long they’re going to put it off because they said it could be up to a week which would be really bad if it was,” she told FOX40.
The question on thousands of minds’ in Nevada County after PG&E shut off power early Wednesday morning is if this is going to keep happening.
“I think it’s overkill. I understand the idea,” Nevada County resident Michael Honer said. “But is this going to happen every time we get some high winds? They’re just going to shut power down to everybody?”
Honer doesn’t have a generator.
“The local places raised the prices on their generators. I couldn’t see paying double the price,” he said.
He’s relying on ice chests to cool his food.
“Trying to save what I can for now. I’m just gonna basically be barbecuing. I have a barbecue with propane so I’m just going to eat everything I have out of my freezer,” Honer told FOX40.
At the same time, he braced for his likely busy night shift at the local hospital.
“My concern is for people that are on oxygen and other medical equipment that requires power and don’t have generators,” Honer said. What’s going to happen to them? They’re probably going to end up in the hospital.”
While people out here have dealt with shutoffs before, this will likely be the longest.
PG&E is telling people to be ready for five days or more.
Outages impact small businesses
Thousands of people in Lincoln woke up Wednesday morning to no power.
The outages affected traffic lights, daily life and for many small business owners, it forced them to close.
“We’ve been here all night,” business owner Linda Lokey told FOX40.
Lokey and her family have been doing what they can to protect The Double Barrel Smokehouse Texas BBQ. The restaurant is in downtown Lincoln, and they say they’ve been trying to salvage as much food as possible after the lights turned off.
When power went out Wednesday morning, workers had to use ice to keep the meat from spoiling.
The Lokey’s are one of hundreds of thousands of PG&E customers impacted by planned power outages amid what’s being described as “extreme fire weather danger.”
“If we didn’t get the generator, I don’t know what we’d be doing right now,” Lokey said, who bought one of the last generators at Costco.
The generator allows them to power multiple walk-in coolers where they store meat and other high dollar inventory, but it wasn’t enough to save everything.
Freshly brewed beer stored in tin barrels was among some of the inventory lost.
“For mom and pops like us and all the businesses here, this can be very devastating and catastrophic for our business to recover from,” Lokey said.
Lokey says they’re already feeling the effects from their restaurant going dark.
“They’re going to put us out of business basically,” owner Monty Lokey said. “We have a 14 thousand square foot restaurant. We’re losing tens of thousands of dollars in food.”
The Lokey’s are just one of many business owners feeling the impact of the outages.
Patty Storer owns a small bakery and café across the street from the Double Barrel restaurant.
Storer makes her menu items in house and says a couple days without electricity will cost her.
“This i probably losing $1,200 today, which is a hit for a small business, and it’s going to take a lot of staff and more money to get it back up and running because we have to remake everything.”
She hopes PG&E will find a long-term solution to Red Flag Warnings soon.
“It’s really frustrating. Honestly, I think they need to put the wires underground,” Storer said.
Business owners are hoping the power comes back quickly.
“If it lasts more than two days, it’s going to be extremely substantial for us,” Lokey said.
Owners are also hoping, if the trend continues, cities will step in and fund large generators to help businesses stay open during outages.