Confusion surrounds PG&E shutoff in North Bay

With expected heavy winds in wine country, Sonoma businesses are making sure locals have everything they need. 

The tourist town of 11,000 found itself without power Wednesday even though there was scarcely a breeze. PG&E's move to cut off power ahead of gusty conditions didn't settle well with some residents. 

"Right now, it's so calm here, so it's like, 'Could it have waited until the winds came up?'" Allison Berger questioned. 

PG&E says though weather conditions are calm during the day, that may not be the case into the night. Areas above 1,000 feet are projected to see winds up to 50 to 60 mph. 

Another resident who lives up in the hills, about a mile away, said she hadn't noticed any strong winds the first part of the day. 

"It's not at all windy and it hasn't been windy for the past day and even right now it's not windy," Ira Tager. 

Nonetheless, the power was shutoff. 

"Yeah, it sounds like it's pretty serious, but to me, you just have to make the best of it," said Michigan tourist Shelby Rutherford. 

The problem with Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) is that it usually means an economic shutdown where they occur. But, in Sonoma, a town that almost burned down two years ago, businesses are prepared. 

"What happened two years ago maybe set the stage for the community to really get together and be organized," said Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau Executive Director Tim Zahner. 

"I sense that the stores that can stay open, really want to be open for us," said Berger.
Basque Boulangerie has enough pastries and coffee to last for a while. 

"We did this two years ago when the fires were here. We stayed open all through those 10 days until we were kicked out," owner  Sonny Bajwa said. "We're gonna stay open for the local folks coming in. They need their cup of coffee in the morning."

The Town Square bar,  busy with tourists on the weekend is very much a local watering hole. 

"We stayed open during the fires as long as we could because this is a home town bar and it's a gathering place for people to come in and they don't have any power at home," said bartender Kathy Sanchez.

But despite that, some residents aren't happy with PG&E. 

"What I make of this power outage is very simple. PG&E has screwed up by not doing all the work they need for their power lines and the rest of us are paying for it," said Tager. 

"We're just reacting to the situation that we're given and making the best of it and this, being Sonoma, we're gonna have a good time while we're doing it," added Zahner of the Visitor's Bureau.

Before power is restored, every inch of every line must be thoroughly inspected and, if necessary, repaired. That could days and California's most windy, fire-prone months are still ahead.