Pacific Gas & Electric initiated a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20 for 10,517 Napa County customers and approximately 50,000 customers in 11 counties.

Napa County areas impacted included Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Lake Berryessa, Napa, Oakville, Pope Valley, Rutherford, St. Helena and Yountville.

PG&E initiated the PSPS for community and customer safety early Wednesday morning due to dry, windy weather and elevated fire risk across portions of its service area. Wind gusts in excess of 70 miles per hour were recorded Wednesday morning and into Thursday.

PG&E operated Community Resource Centers from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday in Calistoga at Mt. Saint Helena Golf Course parking lot in Calistoga, and at the former St. Helena Catholic School.

Early Thursday morning, PG&E crews began checking power lines before starting to restore power to customers. Their helicopters flew low throughout Napa County as part of the inspection process.

By 5 p.m. Thursday, PG&E had restored power to all of its customers.

Despite that, though, on Wednesday afternoon, Calistogan Tim Carl, a freelance writer and photographer, was in downtown St. Helena, charging his cell phone and computer. He was without power at his Calistoga home and spent about four hours working at the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company.

Carl said power outages are “extremely inconvenient, because I can’t do much work if I don’t have Internet and power.” He added, “I have a piece that I’m working on to finish up.”

During the power outages in October, Carl said he would go to different places, either coffee houses, restaurants or the library to do his work. “I have my rounds where I go to different places, because I don’t want to take advantage of their hospitality,” he said. Power outages are stressful, he added, and power, the Internet and camaraderie are needed. “It’s nice to be with other people.”

Generator used

Monica Stevens is co-founder and CEO of Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch, a Napa Valley no-kill rescue and sanctuary for homeless companion and farm animals. Jameson’s headquarters, a 4.2-acre property on Cuttings Wharf Road in Carneros, was one of those included in the PSPS, although a generator provided the much-needed power. “We have to have continuous power, because we’re on a well and need hot water, as well as to power our refrigerators for food,” Stevens said, explaining they get hundreds of pounds of food a day for their 70 animals, which includes horses, pigs, cows, 16 pigeons, chickens and cats and dogs.

Jameson has owned the property since April 2018 and Stevens said they are in the middle of a capital campaign and getting a use permit. According to JARR’s website, the property will be a cage-free campus for animals of all shapes, sizes and ages, and will be home for JARR’s services and programs and will be open to the public for education. She said the process will take another 18 months.

Not bothered by outage

Even though St. Helena Montessori School on College Avenue didn’t lose power last week, it did in October.

The campus is open and classrooms are filled with natural light, so classes are held even when the power is out.

“Obviously, it’s an inconvenience (not having power), but a lot of the materials that we use are tangible, including books and a lot of Montessori materials are specially designed so they don’t need electricity,” said Matthew Heil, director of development for the school. “Teachers can continue with their lessons and their lesson plans pretty much unabated,” he added.

The school has a limited number of laptops that students use in the upper grades, especially in the middle school for work and assignments, but Heil said, “We are not depending on electricity to do math, science, literature, grammar, all the other subjects can continue without power, so we’re very blessed.”

Beyond that, though, Heil said, “We feel an obligation to our parents to try to have class whenever we can,” adding that the school’s rule of thumb has been “to stay open every day we can.”

In October, for example, with multiple power shutoffs, the school remained open. “There was one day where the smoke got really bad (from the Kincade Fire) on a Monday afternoon, so we canceled school on Tuesday,” Heil said, which was ironic, because that Tuesday turned out to be a “really beautiful day.”

Enrollment at the Montessori school is 210 students, with 60% from St. Helena. The rest come from Calistoga south to Napa, with a few from Pope Valley and surrounding areas. In the next few months, Heil will wrap up the final capital campaign and finish the buildings for toddlers and middle school students.

According to the school’s website, St. Helena Montessori was founded in 1981 by Elena Heil and Olga McAdam, who taught the first Montessori Primary Class. In 1985, the school expanded to include a Montessori Elementary Class. In 2008, an Adolescent Program and Farm School were added. The Adolescent Program maintains a farm on the school’s 20-acre parcel on the east side of St. Helena, which became the permanent home to the entire school in the fall of 2013. In November 2016, the school launched a Toddler Option for children as young as 18 months.

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You may reach David Stoneberg at 967-6800 or editor@sthelenastar.com


St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st