OUTAGE NOTES, October 29, 2019

THIS JUST IN (a little after 5pm):

(Second hand info, so take with grain of salt...)

Crews are working in Philo to in anticipation for power restoration in Anderson Valley on Wednesday. Other parts of Mendocino County may come shortly thereafter. (But ultimately still dependent on PG&E).



LATE Tuesday afternoon:

Our south coast (county line north to Point Arena) might be restored first with Anderson Valley to Elk next. I won’t be surprised if some west county customers come
on tonight or by morning. PG&E will be attempting to bring on segments, but the grid wasn’t designed for flipping off and on. Monitoring for stability inherently has unknown delays, making an exact schedule difficult to predict. I expect other areas to trail a day or so behind. (For slightly earlier comments by Supervisor Williams please see also his comment at the end of this post.)


(Assembled by Mark Scaramella)

DECLARING THE POWER SHUTOFF A “BIG FAILURE,” Supervisor Ted Williams said Tuesday morning on KZYX that the County planned to do a “post mortem” with a list of problems caused by or related to PG&E. Williams asked the public to keep notes on problems they’ve experienced and send them in when things settle down. He offered his county number, 972-3993, and home phone, 937-3500, for people who may want to call in with reports or problems — medical, phone, internet, water, generators, gas, recharging stations, showers, water storage, oxygen. Williams email address is: williamst@mendocinocounty.org. We’re pretty sure all the Super would be happy to accept such reports.

WILLIAMS bluntly added, “NO FIRES!” The high fire risk continues and people should be very watchful. Williams said anyone with a generator should never leave it unattended while on, and if anyone sees smoke or fire, don’t hesitate to call it in to 911.

CEO CARMEL ANGELO complained about PG&E Tuesday morning as well, saying that the County has been unable to get accurate info out of them. Especially, regarding “re-energization.”

EMERGENCY SERVICES COORDINATOR, Sheriff’s Lieutenant Shannon Barney was so frustrated with PG&E silence, inaccuracies and changing info and predictions that on Tuesday he was heard to exclaim, “We’re getting better info off of Facebook than we are from PG&E.”

NEVERTHELESS, PG&E “says” they expect the current (and last for now?) wind event to be over Wednesday morning. But nobody knows how soon power will be turned back on. Apparently, two of the three major trunk lines into Mendo need work in the aftermath of the winds, so power restoration may be as late as Friday, or Saturday, although there’s still “hope” that it will back on by Thursday.

MANY LAND LINE PHONES have been off as well because ATT’s backup batteries ran down as the power outage stretched out. Apparently, ATT is bringing in generators to re-power the phone lines and some improvements were noticed by Tuesday.

SCHOOLS ARE CLOSED around the County. No one has any organized childcare.

EVACUATION WARNINGS are still in place for the “Compost” or “Burris” fire in Potter Valley. As of Tuesday noon it was 65% contained at under 1,000 acres. The fire reported in Willits on Monday was a “small vegetation fire” which burned one structure and was taken care of there by quick responding local resources. Unfortunately, there was an immediate “evacuation order” given out and some Willits residents started leaving their workplaces in Ukiah to get home to evacuate only to discover that within about half-an hour the “order” was downgraded to a “warning” — but people had already left. Damn.

ROSSI HARDWARE in Boonville is open for supplies like flashlights and batteries. It looks like the Redwood Drive-in/Gas Station got another load of fuel Tuesday morning and a line was again forming for fuel by Tuesday afternoon.

THE SOUTH COAST OF Mendo has reported receiving a contingent of Sonoma County evacuees from the Sonoma Coast. They seem to be accommodating them

A COUPLE OF PEOPLE at the AV Community Services District were not shy about pointing out that this power outage is yet another reason to develop the water and sewer systems for Boonville. Plans include a heavy duty back-up generator to keep water and sewer running when PG&E goes out again — as they most assuredly will.

NOT TO BE DETERRED, the Groovies at KZYX/the AV Grange are proceeding with their big Halloween “Dark Carnival” at the Philo Grange. “On Halloween Night, Thursday, October 31, at the Anderson Valley Grange we proudly present the return of the Dark Carnival Halloween costume party. We’ll scare ourselves dancing to popular electro swing and jazz band, High Step Society. The event’s producers tell us the theme will be ‘Monster Mash, Creature Feature, Live Popcorn Theater.’ There will be on-stage theatrics and a no-host bar. Past Dark Carnivals have been a blast, and this event is well worth the journey to Anderson Valley. The Dark Carnival, a benefit for KZYX, will run from 6:00 to 11:00 pm. All ages invited.”

AT THE TIME THAT WAS WRITTEN, they hadn’t anticipated the power outage or the possibility that “the journey” would require several gallons of hard-to-get gas.

MAYBE SOMEBODY WILL DRESS UP AS PG&E and scare the bejesus out of the local revelers.

PS. Around 3pm Tuesday afternoon a smoke column.was reported off of Peachland road northwest of Boonville. Responding local units were underway in hope that it wasn’t anything more than smoke check (which there have been several of already just in Anderson Valley.)

Update: Local responders couldn't find any smoke in the Peachland area and returned to the firehouse around 3:35pm.


Betsy Cawn Writes:

Beloved Editoria et aliud,

  1. Continued “Public Safety Power Shutdown” with no reprieve, and worsening Kincade
    disaster (see attached CalFire update as of 7 a.m.).
  2. During the October 9/10/11 PSPS, all kinds of communication systems failed,
    including ours — two grueling days without internet and access to info (KPFZ down
    except for brief interludes, mostly dolts on the babblebox because even with the
    internet and info availability they all smoke too much dope to remember what is
    “information” and what is not. [Oh, no, please don’t print that — since I have to
    live with these idiots who are mostly the big chieftans of the station’s board of
    directors.] But AT&T must have “adjusted” their system to make phone and ‘net functional. At home, with a wizard solar-powered backup generator, am able to get on line as long
    as the battery in my CPU holds up (at 42% now after running since 5 am), and use
    the phone (but few are up as early as I am, so will wait until later today to make
    a handful of necessary calls).
  3. PG&E has set up 4 (four!) “customer service centers, one of them a couple of
    blocks away in Upper Lake, to which I repaired for a 3-hour re-charge session
    yesterday morning, and then headed to KPFZ for a brief stint to report actual
    information (interspersed with the typical callers in various states of agitation,
    anxiety, superior knowledge, “advice,” and conjecture — all useless — about
    when/if/how our peace will be restored. For the first time in four years, we are not in the midst of our own wildfire disaster — yet, because there is still the imminent threat of the Kincade bursting
    over the Myacamas and tearing through Cobb, or coming up from Calistoga:
    Middletown has been told to evac (see attached CalFire bulletin).
  4. Schools, restaurants, all manner of public services (library!) closed, but a
    number of suppliers have remained open with their own generators, including a very
    helpful “Sentry” market in Nice (our main Northshore communities’ grocery outlet).
    Most folks interacting well, families with rare “downtime” and beautiful daytime
    weather to enjoy.
  5. Local Disaster Council meeting heard a report from the National Weather Service
    that informed the few of us present that some time in the next year (perhaps in six
    months, springtime) responsibility for transmitting NWS bulletins in Lake County
    will derive from the Humboldt station, rather than Sacramento. HOWEVER, as it turns
    out there is no NWS transmitter in Lake County, so the Homeland Security
    Grant-funded purchase and distribution of NWS radios to Valley Fire survivors in
    2016 was virtually wasted (Sheriff’s Office had to admit; we’ll see whether anyone
    from DHS looks to see whether that public money was frivolously misspent — yeah,
    right). NOAA/NWS no longer provides those transmitters for free, would cost us a mere $25K to get one (25% match to total $100K grant), and County as usual poor-mouthing.
    But WTF? This is how DUMB our County Office of Emergency Services either is or
    pretends to be, on our dime and with our lives at stake. After reviewing the Mendo Supes discussion of your failing/frail communication systems on October 22, but seeing ZERO discussion by our officials — despite
    certain knowledge of similar conditions here (or maybe not?) — I reminded the
    Disaster Council that our 2018-approved Local Hazard Mitigation Plan calls for
    quarterly review and updating under specified circumstances, clearly called for
    following the River/Ranch Fires and the California Office of Emergency Management
    (CalOES) issuance of the new (2019) California Disaster Recovery Framework, the
    implementation of which is unknown. Blank looks and mini-shrugs from Council
    members (OES Director, who is the Sheriff; OES Manager, on his third career as a
    certifiable seat-warmer; Undersheriff who just hit his first 30 and can now
    comfortably retire and take a new easy ride in some other agency underperforming as
    usual, elected officials and department heads). Huh. Inquiries sent to CalOES regarding the poorly constructed but chock-full-o-nuts CDRF partially responded to [forwarding the three-part “exchange” in separate email
    dated October 6]. Locally, all responsible parties are now blessed with yet
    another excuse not to address public service capacity deficits.

Sun’s up, battery’s low, and heading for juice joint and a dose of HEAT (have
everything comfy but that, which these old bones groan over, but fingers still
working, so happy to have the ability to send you love from Upper Lake, and wish you
well, everyone).


P.S. — So happily grateful to find the smidgeon of AVA updates this morning.
Hesse’s loving thoughts most delightfully poignant on this day.



This was written by a retired and former Chief Communications Officer for
PG&E. It is his version of ‘the rest of the story’ simply and completely.
From Tim Fitzpatrick:
Even as the flames are advancing, I see that California's politicians are
continuing to slam PG&E for "greed and mismanagement," saying the company
prioritized "profits over safety" instead of investing in a grid they say
is in a shambles.

Nice slogans but here are a few inconvenient facts:

  1. Historically, PG&E has spent something on the order of $6 billion every
    year upgrading its electric and gas systems. We can argue about which
    investments are best to make at what point in time but the idea that the
    company doesn't invest in continually upgrading its system is just
  2. I don't recall these same politicians calling out PG&E for not spending
    enough money prior to now. In fact, the California Public Utilities
    Commission routinely rejects about half of what PG&E seeks in its rate
    cases and TURN (The Utility Reform Network) fights every penny in every
    rate case tooth and nail. I'm not blaming them. Nobody wants higher bills
    but let's not make up history.
  3. In fact, PG&E's rates are the highest in the country largely because of
    state-mandated clean energy projects that seek to address climate change.
    I'm not faulting the state for projects that seek to reduce greenhouse
    gases -- that goes to the root of the problem that the state is facing
    right now -- but, again, let's be honest about where we wanted PG&E to
    spend big chunks of cash historically.
  4. Earlier this year, over a four-month period, PG&E conducted an in-depth
    inspection of its entire electrical system. Not surprisingly given the
    size of the grid, it found stuff that needed to be fixed and it fixed those
    things. However, the new CEO characterized the grid as being in pretty
    good shape going into wildfire season as a result of the intensive
    inspection and repair process. Since he's new, he would have absolutely no
    reason to say that if he didn't believe it to be true.
  5. Some critics are saying PG&E should have undergrounded all of its grid
    in areas subject to wildfires. That sounds nice but it would cost billions
    of dollars and everybody would end up with the proverbial $10,000 a month
    electric bill. Now, there are certainly strategic areas where
    undergrounding could help along with a myriad of other actions that need to
    take place but let's be clear -- the magic wand everybody wants doesn't
  6. The politicians also are continuing to criticize PG&E for implementing
    Public Safety Power Shutoffs in an attempt to head off more wildfires.
    They wish the company had the ability to be more targeted in where it shut
    off power. I'm sure the company wishes that too and someday it certainly
    will. But here's another inconvenient fact. A 102-mph wind gust was
    recorded in Sonoma County. The National Weather Service forecaster noted
    the wind speed and shared that sustained winds had also "officially broke
    Hurricane Force (78 mph)." So, yeah, the company is going to do what it has
    to do.

The reality is that federal, state and local governments all will have to
take more action -- just like PG&E -- to address new levels of wildfire
risk in California. There are no quick fixes.

Earlier this year, a state "Strike Force" assembled a host of
recommendations for addressing wildfires. Those included actions that must
be taken by the state's electric companies. It also covered a wide range of
other recommendations, including, for example:

• Improve fire detection technologies.
• Upgrade "antiquated" 9-1-1 sytems.
• Update the state's climate change modeling.
• Convene an emergency preparedness summit.
• Develop best practices for evacuations.
• Better assess communities at risk for wildfires.
• Incorporate fire risk issues into local planning.
• Advance cost-effective home retrofits.
• Increase defensible space and protect forests and rangeland.

The list goes on but you get the idea. Everybody has a piece of this, including those who criticize the loudest and longest.

I retired from my job as PG&E's chief communications officer on Nov. 2, I don't speak for the company and I don't ask the company for
permission to post my personal opinions. But I have not forgotten the good
people I worked with and I'm not going to stand by silently in the face of
hypocrisy by politicians.

It's time for everyone to work together for the
good of California.

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