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PG & E Blackout brings closed schools, closed shops and spoiled food



SANTA ROSA, California – Thaddeus Palmese runs a restaurant and is scheduled to celebrate three weddings this weekend. From Thursday afternoon he had no power.

46-year-old Palmese was one of more than 2 million people in California struggling with PG & E's unprecedented decision to cut off power supplies in much of the state's forest fires.

The blackouts in the state's largest state have shut down businesses, forced schools and universities to shut down home health care, and disrupted daily domestic life. It is estimated that the world's fifth-largest economy could cost more than $ 2 billion.

PG & E, which was responsible for the state's deadliest campfire last year, said the shutdowns would help prevent power lines from sparking.

Many Californians are unsure if they can manage fewer forest fires.

Inga Torok, 75, a retired California government employee, throws her phone, tablet, and electronic toothbrush during a power outage at a temporary community center run by energy supplier PG & E on Thursday. David Ingram / NBC News

"No, we do not want all our homes to burn down," he told Palmese, Tips Roadside's head chef in Sonoma County. "But if people cut their working hours to close down their business, how can they pay for houses that have not burned down?"

Forest fires swept through Sonoma County in 2017, killing 22 people in Santa Rosa, its largest city that wiped out neighborhoods and caused more than $ 10 billion in damage.

Palmeses Restaurant served food cooked on one of his catering trucks on Thursday, and his bar was open to serve beer and wine, but he said at least seven The restaurant staff were idle because of the power outage forced him to reset the operations.

The local health department stopped on Thursday to make sure the restaurant complied with food safety regulations, and Palmese said the inspectors may have to come back on Friday as he prepares to use the food trucks for the wedding. One on Saturday should have 165 guests.

So far, his Northern California caterers were still open planning for daily deliveries, but he could not use his freezers and refrigerators to keep raw food cold. The restaurant also uses an electric pump to access well water.

Nathan Flynn (from left), whose family belongs to National Ice, sells ice cream to Thaddeus Palmese (from right), the head chef of Tips Roadside, a restaurant and catering company providing groceries during a power outage in Santa Rosa, California, cold on 10th October 2019. David Ingram / NBC News

– logistical nightmare, "he said.

Palmese said his restaurant was looking for a more permanent solution in case power outages were more common. He estimated that buying and installing a generator would cost around $ 100,000, without the fuel costs. Although a single restaurant costs a lot of money, it may be less than the alternative.

"Do you want to accept these losses, which add up incrementally?" He asked. "Restaurants have a little leeway."

The power outage in Santa Rosa occurred almost exactly two years after the outbreak of the Tubbs fire on October 8, 2017, which destroyed 3,000 homes and killed 22 people.

"Two years ago, yesterday, I left my house at 3am with my dog ​​and pajamas," said Inga Torok, 75, on Thursday, her second day without electricity. "I was surrounded by fire from three sides."

Torok, a retired government official, said she thinks of the Tubbs fire every time she smells smoke and knows that due to the California climate, more forest fires are likely.

"If you have open space and dry vegetation, it's really scary," she said.

But she said, trying not to confuse the memories of 2017 or the increased caution by PG & E. Before the power cut, she said she filled every bucket she could find with water – she's in a well that uses an electric pump – and bought 20 pounds of dry ice.

"If you have lemons, you need to make lemonade," she said, and she and several neighbors planned an outdoor barbeque party on Thursday night with a wood-burning oven.

Renee Lopilato, 72, a retired college administrator, visits with her Dog Windy a temporary community center during a power outage in Santa Rosa, California October 10, 2019. David Ingram / NBC News

The blackout led to a run on dry ice that was suddenly a rare and valuable asset when people tried [19559002] Nathan Flynn, whose family owns National Ice Inc. in Santa Rosa, said the ice cream shop never sells dry ice, but it was twice on Thursday – once in the morning and again in the afternoon, after a delivery No further delivery expected by Friday morning.

"Usually it's people who smile and are happy, go camping and have a good old time n want, "said Flynn, 26, between helping customers. "In the last two days we've seen lines out the door we've never seen before, people are scared and it's awful."

The store sells dry ice for $ 1 a pound and normal ice for 2 $ 50 for a 10-pound block that is slightly larger than a box of handkerchiefs. Flynn said one customer was trying to salvage 60 pounds of salmon that he had captured in Alaska, brought home and frozen.

"We are a very agricultural county," he said. "Everyone has a bit of meat that they hunted themselves, or fish that they brought with them."

PG & E set up a temporary community center in a parking lot in Santa Rosa, essentially air-conditioned tents with tables, Chairs and sockets, water and other basic equipment. A steady stream of people came on Thursday to charge their phones, laptops and other electronic devices.

California residents who were out of power during a power outage upload their photos and other electronic devices to a temporary community center run by the energy utility PG & E in Santa Rosa. California, October 10, 2019. David Ingram / NBC News

The residents of Santa Rosa said they were grateful for the center, but were angry that the power company had not done more for years to prevent forest fires ,

This shows how dependent we are on PG & E to get their work done, "said Renee Lopilato, 72, a retired college administrator who charged her emergency room phone with her dog, Windy.

"I wish PG & E spent the last 10 years isolating its pipelines, laying them underground, and pruning the vegetation," she said. "That makes me very, very angry."

Lopilato said the full impact of the blackout was hard to measure as it affected millions of people in many ways, from spoiled food to canceled college classes to possible increases in traffic accidents, as many street lights go out.

She worries that this will not be the only power cut that PG & E will take as a precautionary measure: "If this will be an annual event, I'll be more angry than ever. "


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