Series of public safety power shutoffs rock Cloverdale
A series of three power outages in the span of a week left much of Cloverdale in the dark starting on Oct. 23. Nearly all PG&E customers who were without power during the outages had power restored by Nov. 1, a spokesperson for the company said.
PG&E initiated a public safety power shutoff to Sonoma County first on Oct. 23, and then again on Oct. 26 and Oct. 29. Gas was shut off on Sunday, Oct. 27. While different areas may have been impacted on different dates, PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras said that there were 5,300 accounts with Cloverdale addresses hit by the shutoff (accounts do not refer to individual people). Among those 5,300 were 3,500 accounts that also didn’t have gas.
The shutoffs were initiated due to anticipated high winds combined with a series of red flag warnings caused by high heat and low humidity.
While PG&E opened two customer resource centers open in Sonoma County that provided people with places to charge their electronics — one of which was at the Cloverdale Citrus Fair — many people thought that the company could have done more by way of helping residents.
“They give you flashlights and a charger and say ‘be on your way,’” said Guy Woodward, who passed through North Cloverdale Boulevard on his way to the Sonoma County Transit warming bus that was positioned in front of City Hall on Oct. 29.
Woodward said that while some stores in Cloverdale stayed open during the power outage to provide what they could to residents, power outages make it so folks who depend on EBT cards to help get food weren’t able to use them. Woodward said that he’s interested to see what solutions can be thought up to help combat issues like that one, should public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) continue.
In an attempt to address the near-freezing temperatures on Oct. 29 and Oct. 30, Sonoma County Transit positioned a “warming” bus in front of Cloverdale’s City Hall for a large portion of both days, allowing community members to sit inside and warm up, as well as charge their phones.
A few hours into the bus’ stay on Oct. 29, around 30 people had used its services.
Healdsburg resident Dana Cavallo had evacuated to Cloverdale resident Patricia Horton’s house with her dog when the power was shut off at Horton’s house. They had come downtown to charge up their devices and partake in some of the food being given out by Papa’s Pizza.
In the midst of the outages, MoE’s Eagles Nest Deli owner Monique Evans was concerned about what would happen should the outages become the new normal.
“This is totally impacting our business. It is not business as usual for sure, and I’m worried about the future if we’re going to continue doing this (having outages),” Evans said. “But because of this it pushed us to get a generator, so now we have one of our own instead of borrowing one. It’s pushing us to think bigger scale and we’re going to make sure in our future plans that we’ll have solar powered capabilities at our house, which will have the ability to have a generator.”
“One positive out of this, hopefully, is that FEMA may open up some funds for small businesses hopefully,” she added.
For some businesses on the south end of Cloverdale, this power outage was just an elongated version of the one that occured on Oct. 8.
An employee at Ray’s Food Place said that the grocery store had taken measures to prepare for the prolonged outage after PG&E’s PSPS on Oct. 8. While the store was still impacted by the shutoff, they had prepared ahead of time by renting more generators that allowed check stands to be open.
As a precursor to assessing any possible damage or revenue loss as a result of the power shutoff and fire, the Cloverdale City Council met on Oct. 31 to ratify its proclamation declaring the existence of a local emergency in Cloverdale. The proclamation was initially issued on Oct. 9, and the revision amended the local emergency to include the subsequent October power shutoffs, as well as the Kincade Fire.