The Napa Valley Mobile Home Park on Orchard Avenue, like much of Napa, lost power Saturday evening. For its senior residents who remained without power Wednesday morning, being left in the dark – both literally and figuratively – has been especially challenging.
For Carol De Sousa, 77, the last week has been especially distressing: her husband, Tony, who’d been suffering from heart failure, died Sunday night. The blackouts over the past month have been an additional strain.
“It’s been terrible trying to take care of him and contending with the blackouts,” De Sousa said, motioning to the inside of her mobile home, where she and her husband moved from American Canyon four years ago. “He was sick, and we were sitting here in the dark.”
His condition worsening, she brought him to The Berkshire, an assisted living facility in Napa, where he ultimately passed away. De Sousa had been sleeping at the facility in a chair next to her husband.
“It was difficult having to come home to this cold house (Monday) and start making funeral arrangements,” she said. The heat was out—she’d piled on three layers of clothing and a scarf – and had thrown away all of the food in the freezer and refrigerator for the second time this month.
De Sousa said she was also having trouble getting up-to-date information about the outages. She’d half expected the power to return Tuesday, unaware of the strong winds forecast for that night. Her landline was dead as a result of the outages and she hadn’t known how to receive text alerts on her cellphone, a flip phone.
She was “shocked” after hearing how long the outages would last, she added.
“I know these shutoffs have been going on for a while, but it seems like they come at the worst time,” De Sousa said, her voice raw with emotion. “I think PG&E should pay more attention to the people that live here. There are some worse off than I am. I know they’re as cold as I am.”
De Sousa’s neighbors, an 81-year-old woman and a close friend in her 50s who asked that their names not be used, said the outages had been disruptive for the homeowner’s health. She has a colon condition that requires heat for sanitary reasons, the neighbor said, and had been unable to get out of bed in the mornings because of the chill that had seeped in the house overnight.
Even so, she echoed De Sousa, voicing concern for others. Compared to others in the park, she said, her problems were “minor.”
“This has put such a strain on her,” said the neighbor’s friend, who had been helping to take care of her. “It’s the anxiety level, having to cope with being freezing. I can see these older people keeping a stiff upper lip, but it’s taxing them.”
She’d set up a generator for the woman’s home so they could charge their phones and save the food in the fridge. To keep the homeowner warm, she’d been using hot water bottles.
Debbie Tracy, whose parents live at the end of De Sousa’s street in the park, said she’d come from Petaluma to check on her mother, who is 91, and her father, who is 95. Her parents are “healthy for their age,” and mostly independent, Tracy said, but she hadn’t been able to reach them since Sunday, when she’d come to take the contents of their freezer to her home in Petaluma, where power never went out.
“Unfortunately, my parents don’t do cellphones. Their (landline) doesn’t work,” she said, adding that she was grateful for neighbors delivering news about the shutoffs by word of mouth. They’d remained in good spirits, she added, but the situation was far from ideal.
“It’s upsetting, because they’re older. My mom is going blind, and without the lights, it’s even worse at night,” Tracy said.
She credited their independence to their age – people of their generation have “been through it all,” Tracy said, adding that her parents were inclined to “suck it up” and deal with the circumstances.
“I do understand why they’re turning off the power,” she added. “But for so long? Especially for older people.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, half of the homes in the park had power while half remained in the dark – the result of different power grids. During the last series of outages, the same half of the park had remained without power for almost four days, according to resident Ida Diaz, 70.
Sitting on resident Pattie Comardelle’s porch, whose home had already had power restored, she lamented the length of the outages and said she’d heard from several neighbors who were considering moving out of the area.
The 81-year-old home owner said she’d attempted to find out when power would return to the dark half of the park, but that PG&E’s outage maps wouldn’t register her address.
De Sousa, who is still trying to plan her husband’s burial amidst uncertainty, took to calling the Napa Police Department for updated information concerning the outages. The chaplain stopped by her house on Wednesday, brought her some food and told her the power was expected back at 8 p.m. Thursday, she said.
“That’s just not acceptable – that’s an entire week, almost,” De Sousa said. “It’s very upsetting to see these people suffering.”