ST. HELENA — Aside from rigorous gusts of wind, Sunday morning was much like any other in St. Helena, which was mostly unaffected by PG&E’s latest Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS).
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St. Helenans gathered at their favorite local haunts to compare notes on the tumultuous week and share their sympathies for nearby communities gripped by widespread power outages, evacuations and the catastrophic Kincade Fire in Sonoma County.
“It’s just heartbreaking what’s happening over there,” said Cathy Small. Like most St. Helena residents, Small had power.
“Everything is well locally, it’s just the poor devils living all around us,” said Jay Greene. “St. Helena remains a bubble.”
Similar to the previous PSPS that started Oct. 23, areas on upper Spring Mountain Road and east of Silverado Trail – including Meadowood Resort and Bell Canyon Reservoir — had to resort to generator power. A PG&E map showed outages on the edges of town in parts of the Sylvaner neighborhood, Sulphur Springs Avenue, Fulton Lane and Pratt Avenue.
However, the downtown and most of the densest residential neighborhoods seemed to be unaffected.
“It’s like nothing happened here except this wind,” said Mary Sproat. “How is that possible?”
“We’re very lucky,” added Mary’s husband Ron. They’d packed perishable food and ice in a cooler in anticipation of the power going out, but the refrigerator had kept humming along.
Greene and the Sproats were having coffee at the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company. Other St. Helenans attended church services, waited for a coveted table at Gillwoods Cafe, or passed by the Cameo Cinema, where proprietor Cathy Buck reassured patrons that “The Addams Family” would be playing as scheduled.
PG&E announced Monday morning that it was working on restoring power to those affected by the PSPS, but it also warned of another potential shutoff starting Tuesday, when more high winds are forecast.
"The St. Helena community did an excellent job staying calm and focused" during the latest PSPS and the Kincade Fire, said Mayor Geoff Ellsworth.
"Though wind conditions have improved fire crews continue efforts in containment of this fire and it remains important that we stay alert and prepared as fire danger is still high as a future PSPS may occur," Ellsworth said. "Our Police and Fire Departments remain staffed up and are continuously monitoring the situation, as well as being in full communication on the regional level."
Ellsworth said people should keep a "Go Bag" ready, maintain two to three days of non-perishable food and water, and keep their cars fueled up.
Please continue to check on neighbors as well as keeping a “Go Bag” ready, two to three days of non-perishable food and water on hand, and vehicles fueled up.
On Sunday morning, a few people who’d lost power in Calistoga and in the hills charged their phones at PG&E’s Community Resource Center, set up in a big white tent in the St. Helena Catholic School parking lot. PG&E staff used barrels filled with water to weigh down the tent so it didn’t blow down during high winds, as happened to the one at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga.
Frank and Carolyn Van Konynenburg had stocked up on candles, flashlights and batteries as a precaution, but they never lost power. Frank said St. Helena should consider setting up a microgrid back-up system similar to Calistoga’s.
“They could put it right in the parking lot of PG&E,” he said with a laugh, referring to an empty lot on Mitchell Drive that’s long been considered for public parking. “Imagine the irony of that.”