PG&E worked through the night to restore power in my neighborhood

About six or seven years ago, we had that bad power outage all over town, power out for days. My family, in our house just off Mangrove Avenue, was out for four days. Funny thing was, even though temps were in the 20’s over that period, we lost everything in our refrigerator/freezer that we couldn’t eat.  We had a bunch of frozen produce from our garden, luckily not much meat. But, it was a financial hardship, not to mention, depressing, right at the most depressing time of year.

When I heard that PG&E was not allowing their technicians to work overtime, requiring utility trucks be back in the yard by 10 pm, I was furious. Some parts of town were out almost a week – Spiteri’s deli claimed thousands of dollars in losses, not only no business, but an ice box full of rotten meat. 

I complained to my county supervisor and city council – they allow PG&E to operate in our area through a licensing agreement, and certainly have the right to call any utility on the carpet for poor performance. I think a lot of people did, because that’s not how PG&E handles a power outage these days.

Last night we had the biggest, most powerful lightening storm I have ever witnessed. I remember another one in the late 80’s, we were living in an old farmhouse off Eaton Road – a bolt of lightening hit an old oak tree off in the distance, and in the flash of light we saw the top of that giant oak blow all over the place. It literally exploded right before our eyes. 

Last night a bolt of lightening hit the power pole in front of our neighbor’s house. I was standing in my kitchen, in our upstairs apartment, and the floor danced under my feet for a few seconds. 

My husband got out in time to see the pole still burning. The transformer was laying in parts on the ground, hanging from loose wires.

My husband got out in time to see the pole still burning. The transformer was laying in parts on the ground, hanging from loose wires. You can see part of it stuck to the pole there.

The power was out in our apartment and we could see the neighborhood around us was dark.  As my husband stood out at the end of our driveway looking at the burning pole, he heard a fire engine in the distance. As he watched, the engine sped past the scene, hauling ass down Vallombrosa.

I’ll say something dumb – fire trucks and ambulances drive too fast.  There’s usually no productive end in driving that fast, they endanger lives every time they leave the dock, and I know they get false alarms and non-emergency calls all day. And here they were driving so fast they missed the street the fire was on – my husband heard them slow down, beep-beep-beep their turnaround, come dragging their tail back to the actual emergency scene.  

They didn’t put out any fire, that fizzled out by itself. They strung caution tape and waited for PG&E to show up. In the meantime cars continued to wind  their way through the scene – for some reason the fire department didn’t shut the street down, even though live wires had been blown down. In fact, we later found that almost all the poles around our house had some sort of damage, there were bits and pieces of equipment on the ground at the end of our driveway and in various piles along the street. 

Here’s the surprise – PG&E came right away and worked all night to fix the problem. Our power was on and off, as they had to cut it to fix stuff, but fully restored by 10pm. When we had television, we saw on the news that similar incidents had happened all over town, and some people were still without power. The PG&E workmen in our neighborhood told my husband, the transformer that had been hit affected power all the way to Mangrove Avenue.  Some of our tenants reported their power was out, but also restored later that evening. But, because their specific pole was badly damaged, our immediate next door neighbor and everybody west of them, all the way to the freeway, was without power most of the night. Funny how that stuff works. 

I woke up at 2:30 in the morning to hear the PG&E crews ratcheting something, work work working through the night to get the power back on. Again at 3:30, work work work.  I was amazed. After that bad outage we had, where PG&E management wouldn’t spend the money on overtime, I never wanted to trust PG&E again. Not only did we buy a generator that can run our refrigerator (and we were ready to get it out last night), but I’ve collected solar and battery lights, hand crank kitchen gadgets and other non-electric items ever since. I even have a little hand crank radio flashlight that will charge your cell phone. We have adapters that will charge appliances from our car.

I’m still glad I have those things, and I still don’t trust PG&E, not with their track record. It shouldn’t be a surprise when they send crews out to make repairs.  That’s what we should be able to expect living right in a populated area, but they’ve let me down before, so I don’t trust  them. I’ll probably go over to Harbor Freight Tools and buy a few more strings of those solar lights. 

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