Despite temperatures in the triple digits, Calistogans persevered through PG&E’s first Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS) in the North Bay on Sept. 25 without major incident.
Notices from PG&E about the likelihood of a PSPS began going out Sunday evening and continued with various updates through Wednesday. Residents and business owners agreed the biggest issue was not knowing whether or not the power was actually going to be shut off.
PG&E implemented public safety power shutoffs before dawn Wednesday for 1,284 customers in the Calistoga area, then began restoring electricity in the afternoon.
Rancho de Calistoga, the mobile home park with 184 senior residents, was without power for about 12 hours beginning at 4:40 a.m.
Rancho resident manager Laruen Haugen said a representative from PG&E called the park at about 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday to let them know the power was indeed off, but didn’t know when the power might be restored.
Haugen said residents gathered in the club house, which stayed relatively cool throughout the day, for coffee and donuts and to be with others.
The cutoff, which did not affect the core of Calistoga, was a precautionary move in advance of strong winds expected Wednesday morning that heightened the risk of damage to PG&E equipment and possible wildfires, the utility reported.
Full restoration of power was scheduled to occur by the evening, after crews, including inspectors in helicopters, surveyed lines at Mount St. Helena and around Calistoga, the utility reported at mid-afternoon.
During the PSPS, PG&E set up a temporary cooling and telecommunications station at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds. This was the first staging of such a resource in the North Bay, said company spokesperson Deanna Contreras. Now that permits and equipment resources are in place, installation will be more routine and the Napa region can expect a station like this to be available for each PSPS event.
The Calistoga Resource Center was able to accommodate up to 100 people with bottled water, charging stations, and a cool place to sit. As temperatures climbed above 100 degrees during the day, Contreras said the station received about five people, less than the eight or so reporters who showed up from newspapers and TV stations around the Bay area.
Also on Wednesday, the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce emailed a survey to local businesses asking how their business was affected by the PSPS.
“Out of the 30 responses we received, only one of them did not have power. The rest of the responses were to tell us they had power and some of the steps they have taken (with generators) to keep their lights on if their power is cut. Quite a few have installed generators,” said Chamber Executive Director Troy Campbell
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The Chamber is also offering charging and cooling services to the public during PSPS events, at the Welcome Center during daytime hours, and as long as the office has power.
The City of Calistoga is also offering a charging station to the public during a PSPS, set up outside city hall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Other locations without power reporting to the Chamber included Highlands Christian Preschool on Petrified Forest Road, Summers Estate Winery on Tubbs Lane, Aurora Park Cottages on Foothill Boulevard, and Heritage School Vineyards on Franz Valley Road.
The busy Arco gas station and convenience store on the corner of Petrified Forest Road and Foothill Boulevard was without power from 4 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Wednesday, as were businesses in the Riverlea shopping center across the way.
360 Salon and Day Spa owner Kyla Terry said she had to call “a ton of clients to reschedule.” Terry and her husband, Nick Gutierrez, also own Soul Rebel Coffee, also in the center. Gutierrez closed the shop for the day and lost a day’s business. He acted fast to borrow a generator to keep his freezer going in the hot weather.
“In two hours the freezer went from zero to 40 degrees,” Terry said.
Update on backup generators in Calistoga
As reported previously in The Weekly Calistogan, the City of Calistoga is partnering with PG&E to provide backup power during PSPS events. The following is a recap of the backup generator situation as of Sept. 26:
- The temporary generators installed in November 2018 at the Calistoga substation were not intended for use during a PSPS event, but rather, for the work being done on PG&E power lines between Calistoga and St. Helena.
- The City of Calistoga entered into an agreement with PG&E over the summer to have more permanent generators installed on city property on Washington Street. It was hoped that project would be online in September, however it is taking longer than expected.
- Therefore, as a backup plan in the likelihood of another PSPS, PG&E will bring in and install temporary generators on city property at the corner of Silverado Trail and Lincoln Avenue.
- However, because that site was not prepared for those generators to be installed on Sept. 25, the generators at the substation would have been utilized had the power been shut down in the area of Calistoga that includes downtown, said PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras.
When asked if people should consider purchasing small generators for home or small business use, Contreras discouraged the idea with the exception of those with electronic medical devices or other serious issues.
There will only be a handful of PSPS events this fire season, and the cost and burdensome operation of the generators, not to mention the safety factors, outweigh their usefulness, she said.