A major winter storm slammed into northern California late last Tuesday night causing power outages in Yolo County to thousands of Pacific Gas & Electric customers, and impacting many Winters businesses and residents.
Power was restored to most of Winters shortly after 7 a.m. on Wednesday. However, a cluster of over 100 businesses and homes between Grant Avenue and Main Street, along Railroad Avenue remained without electricity until Friday night.
PG&E crews worked to repair downed lines and restore services, but heavy winds, the vast number of outages and the effects of an atmospheric river storm hampered those efforts. The National Weather Bureau reports the storm delivered 3.56 inches of precipitation total to Winters.
The effects of the power outage caused frustration, but also revealed community resilience and unity.
Lester Farms Bakery Manager Jessica Carrion said she received a call at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning from an employee who had arrived to begin the day’s baking but found the power was out. She called employees and advised them not to come to work while hoping power would be restored promptly. It was not and eight employees were put on hold while the power was out.
Carrion had to toss some food and cold case products, like cakes and pies, and then transported other items from freezers to the owner’s ranch.
Owner Stan Lester explained that unlike restaurants, a bakery starts fresh every day. Doughnuts, he said, require a two-day process before they are ready to sell and a delay like this puts them behind one day after power is restored.
“It’s very frustrating,” Lester said.
Lester brought in a personal generator to power lights and the cooler, but it wasn’t powerful enough to power their freezer or to keep the bakery open. He is now looking to buy a generator capable of powering the bakery should this happen again.
Meals on Wheels also faced major challenges due to the power outage across Yolo County.
“Our kitchen team begins cooking the 400 meals for seniors all over Yolo County at 4 a.m. for delivery that day. We had no power at our main kitchen/administration office in Woodland from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning,” said Meals on Wheels Executive Director, Christi Skibbins.
Skibbins said staff was monitoring the storm while members of the executive team checked in with each other; once at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and again at 3 a.m. Wednesday. Consideration for the safety of their staff and volunteer drivers during the storm is always a serious concern. With possible flooding, flying objects and downed trees, the decision was made that they could not deliver meals on Wednesday.
Then came the task of calling to notify everyone and posting notices on Facebook and their website advising that Wednesday’s meals would not be delivered.
Skibbins noted last fall their clients received four shelf-stable emergency meals for situations like this, so they wouldn’t go without a meal. Meals on Wheels was able to begin delivers on Thursday. The Winters Community Center’s kitchen was made available to Meals on Wheels’ for their meal service efforts.
“We are back on track and deliveries happened as usual,” Skibbins said Thursday. “Most of our seniors were very understanding about the situation and took it well in-stride.”
Winters City Hall was also without power Tuesday through Friday and staff was relocated to the Public Safety Facility with basic services operating from that location. City Manager Kathleen Trepa encouraged the public to utilize online and digital services as much as possible.
The Winters Community Center was opened Thursday as a charging station between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Medical device charging stations were made available in West Sacramento, Woodland, Winters, Davis and Clarksburg in Yolo County. YoloBus offered residents free roundtrip rides to the designated County charging stations.
Mariani Nut Company had to shut down both their Baker and Edwards Street facilities from the impact the power outage had on their employees and local production demands.
“We have been able to deploy some folks to other plants not impacted, however many employees have not been able to work since Tuesday,” Operations Mgr. Jeff Simmons on Friday afternoon. “As far as product quality, this outage has not impacted us in any way. We are looking forward to our team getting back to work and our neighbors getting their power restored.”
Winters resident Fran Tocco was without power from late Tuesday night until after 7 a.m. Wednesday morning. However, his WAVE telephone, internet and cable remained out until around Noon on Friday. Tocco attempted to get answers and updates from WAVE, but said he received different answers each time he spoke to a customer service representative.
On Friday, Tocco connected with a representative who confirmed that his WAVE outage was connected to the electrical outage.
Tocco said he didn’t experience much of a hardship being without a home phone, internet and cable, but did say he felt for those without power.
Many Winters residents flocked to social media and local community groups for answers and to check in with each other.
PG&E Outage Compensation
PG&E residential customers who go without power for more than 48 hours due to a severe event, such as a storm, may qualify for PG&E’s “Safety Net” program. PG&E’s website reports the program is automatic for residential customers but not available to business or agricultural customers.
Payment of amounts between $25. and $100. are to be automatically paid between sixty and one hundred and twenty days after the outage. The amount of the payment depends on the length of the outage.
Information about the Safety Net Program for extended outages can be found online at https://www.pge.com/ under Residential> Customer Service> Claims or by doing a site search for “Safety Net Program for Extended Outages.”
*Express staff Crystal Apilado and Edward Booth contributed to this article.