Up to 800,000 people in Northern California will be without power, thanks to scheduled power outages by PGE to reduce the risk of wildfire, and could see outages last up to 5 days or more. Grocery stores across the region have been reported to be out of water, canned food, and backup power and electric supplies.
The power outages are a preventative measure, as the recent hot weather and gusty, windy conditions are combining to raise wildfire risk to extreme levels. Experts warn that we could see offshore winds higher than any seen since October 2017, when the North Bay fires ravaged Sonoma and Napa counties.
The controversial move comes after last year’s devastating Camp Fire completely destroyed the town of Paradise, destroyed 19,000 buildings, and took the lives of 85 people. It was the most destructive fire in California State history. CalFire confirmed that PGE was to blame after a 6 month investigation led them to a faulty hook on a transmission line that PGE had known about, but had not yet fixed.
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PGE has been warning customers to prepare for power outages this year, but few Northern Californians have taken real steps to prepare for days without electricity. Now that it’s upon us, people are scrambling to make a plan - at one point, PGE’s website crashed due to the volume of questions.
In reality, it’s common sense to have a plan and supplies in place for wildfire evacuation, smoky conditions like those seen in the past two years, and backup power and light solutions for power outages.
6 Crucial Tips for Staying Safe in a Power Outages
- Keep refrigerator and freezer closed: the refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours, while a full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours. Each time they are opened drastically reduces that length of time
- Focus on food that doesn’t require refrigeration, and don’t risk eating items you are certain are safe! Anything over 40 degree fahrenheit should be tossed out.
- Learn how to open garage without power: if you don’t you’ll be landlocked with your car rendered useless. At the same time, exercise extreme caution when driving, as traffic lights are unlikely to be working, and the risk of accident is much higher.
- Unplug electrical devices, to avoid them being destroyed from an electrical surge when the power comes back on. Leave just one light on so that you’ll know when the power back on.
- Beware of carbon monoxide: don’t operate generators or grills indoors, or anywhere close to open doors or windows.
- Write down important contact info - you likely won’t have wifi and may not have cell service, so it’s crucial to make a plan beforehand.
4 Important Tools for Getting Through Power Outages
Like any emergency plan, being prepared for power outages means having backup plans for the utilities and services we take for granted, and it’s not just the fact that you’ll be in the dark. Power outages can also disrupt communications, transportation (tunnels + bridges), close grocery stores, make ATMs inaccessible, and affect crucial medical devices.
- Backup power - while full on generators are great, they are expensive and can’t be run indoors. We recommend battery-powered power stations, which are relatively very inexpensive, and can run your basics (light, mini-fridge, electronics) for a few days.
- Reusable respirator mask - some of you might remember being inundated with smoke for weeks after wildfires nearby. Unfortunately, wildfires aren’t going anywhere, which is why we have these outages in the first place. Buy yours now, before they are impossible to get later on.
- Emergency kit/evacuation kit - every year thousands of people are forced to evacuate their homes due to wildfires, often with only minutes to get out. It’s crucial to have all the essentials packed and ready to go. Buy ours, or make your own.
- Flashlights/headlamps - sounds obvious, but do you know where yours are, and that the batteries are fresh? Headlamps aren’t much more expensive, but being able to use your hands freely makes a huge difference. Candles aren’t a good solution, as they pose a fire hazard.