Jennifer Scott, the mother of senior Spencer Scott, boils water for tea during the power shutoff in El Dorado Hills. PG&E took the measure to prevent fires in areas at risk. "The unanticipated inconvenience was the cell phone towers being overloaded and/or running out of backup battery power and going down," Jennifer Scott said. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Scott)

PG&E cuts power to Northern California homes to avoid wildfires

On the morning of Oct. 9, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) shut off power to over 700,000 customers in Northern California in an effort to prevent their lines from sparking wildfires, according to USA Today. 

The power outage struck the Folsom and Roseville areas, the Bay Area and Redding due to forecasts of strong winds.

“The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our most important responsibility, which is why PG&E has decided to turn power off to customers during this widespread, severe wind event,” Michael Lewis, PG&E’s senior vice president of Electric Operations, said in a news release. “We understand the effects this event will have on our customers and appreciate the public’s patience as we do what is necessary to keep our communities safe and reduce the risk of wildfire.”

As of Oct. 12, all power has been restored to customers, according to PG&E’s Twitter account.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January after being blamed and subsequently sued for the devastating Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise and resulted in 86 deaths, according to The New York Times. 

The power shutdown, combined with an Oct. 9 ruling leaving shareholders of the company with a smaller stake, resulted in a 26% drop in PG&E shares, according to Fox News. 

Senior Spencer Scott, an El Dorado Hills resident, was without power for two days.

“(PG&E’s) explanation makes sense,” Scott said. “However, they could have done a lot more to help prepare against this, such as actually investing in their infrastructure.”

Sophomore Malek Owaidat, a Loomis resident,  agreed.

“There’s got to be other workarounds to this,” he said. “But, for me, it wasn’t that big of a deal because the power was only out for a day in my neighborhood.” 

Owaidat said he was informed of the power shutdown a day before and prepared accordingly. 

“I made sure I wasn’t using that much warm water so we could keep (as much of it as possible), and I charged all my electronic devices and portable charger,” Owaidat said.

Mohini Rye, ’19, and Jacqueline Chao, ’19, who attend the University of California, Berkeley, said they prepared in similar ways. However, they had electricity in their dorms.

“(UC Berkeley) was shut down for three days, but the dorms never lost power because they’re on generators,” Chao said.

For Chao, it was a “nice break” from school.

“It (was) the middle of midterms, so we just got a nice three-day break to study, work and catch up on sleep,” she said.

However, Rye said she disliked that midterms were delayed.

“It (pushed) back a lot of classes and midterms that are still going to be happening,” Rye said. “Now those classes are lacking the coverage they should have in terms of lectures and discussions.” 

According to Rye, classes were canceled from Oct. 9 to Oct. 11.

Scott said the lack of electricity was frustrating.

“I was very angry because I couldn’t do my homework,” Scott said. “Almost all of my homework is online, so I had to load everything at school and hope it worked at home. But I really just sat at home and did my English reading because there was no internet and the cellular was terrible.”

Scott said the power cut could have been prevented and worsened PG&E’s reputation.

“I really don’t like PG&E. They are a bad company that gives their executives large bonuses instead of taking that money and investing it into better equipment,” Scott said.

He added that being unable to use his electronic devices felt strange.

“It felt lonely without all the things you are used to: your phone, laptop, Wi-Fi (and) lights,” Scott said. “It gave me a different look at (all the technology we use).”
–Arijit Trivedi

Print Friendly, PDF & Email