After the power shutoff, life here in my home office and the (small) city of Jackson have returned to normal. On Monday, October 7, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) announced they would shut off power on October 9 and 10. The reason, they said, was due to forecast high winds that could cause PG&E equipment to fail and possibly start fires. In other words, to protect PG&E from more wildfire liabilities.
In sum, the shutdown affected about two million people in northern California. PG&E came out with outage maps and Jackson was on the edge of one area, so my mother and I weren’t sure if we would be affected. We found out soon after midnight on October 9 when PG&E cut the power. PG&E restored the power at 2:50 p.m. on October 10 — almost 39 hours later. We got lucky because we live in a county seat and the forecast high winds never happened. When the power came on, my mother and I only had to plug all the electronic equipment back in and clean out the refrigerators.
PG&E’s president said on October 11 that power shutoffs remain an option in the future (provided the company isn’t broken up). So, after the power shutoff I reviewed what happened to learn what I did wrong — and right — to be prepared for the next one.
What I Learned
Here’s what I learned and what I’m doing about it.
- PG&E couldn’t say how long the power would be out. It turned out our neighborhood was one of the last in the city to be powered on. My neighborhood is already part of an unreliable sub-grid. Now we know we’re not high up on PG&E’s power restoration task list, either.
- There is no dry ice anywhere. That includes at stores in nearby cities. When the power came back on, I ordered quick-freezing and refillable ice packs from Amazon.
- People pack local coffee shops that have power. They’re a good place to get hot food and drinks to take home, but forget about powering computers.
- I forgot about using my power flashlight. I used my iPhone flashlight mostly.
- Why didn’t I think of using the battery-powered emergency radio in my home office?
- I learned how stressful the shutoff was after it was over and my body relaxed.
What Went Right
Some things went right during the shutdown, too.
- I stored important files on my MacBook Pro and iPad Pro that let me get some work done.
- I charged my iPhone 11 in my mother’s 2017 Volkswagen Jetta that I drive most of the time.
- My new Verizon business plan gives me unlimited data. I connected the MacBook Pro to the iPhone hotspot to check the web and process e-mail.
- Most local stores and the local Starbucks were open.
- The car had enough gas so we could get out of town and attend the Amador Chamber of Commerce monthly mixer.
- The local Safeway had plenty of party ice that I bought and put in the kitchen and home office refrigerators.
- I had warm clothes that helped me sleep because the house temperature dropped to 45 degrees Thursday morning.
- We had enough hot water in the water heater so both of us could take showers on Wednesday and Thursday.
- The party ice worked because refrigerated food was fine after the power shutoff.
Now I’m better prepared for the next outage no matter what the cause. And my mother and I are also talking about getting a generator. Sleeping in a cold house for one night will do that.