More potential PG&E outages have residents on edge

Potential Pacific Gas & Electric power outages have widened to 25 counties and 300,000 customers, with the onset of Red Flag fire conditions Wednesday. 

That means businesses that recently cleaned the mess and restocked losses from last month's blackout, are facing a repeat. 

But fire agencies are urging weary customers to consider the big picture. 

"The bigger picture is, we have a fire weather window opening up here," said Marin County Fire Battalion Chief Bret McTigue. "We have to be prepared for a major fire if we do get one established in the watershed."

Fire during high wind conditions could be ignited - or accelerated- by live power equipment.  

PG&E: Power shutoff to impact 303K customers

And even though December is a mere dozen days away? 

McTigue said that doesn't matter, when conditions are still so dry. 

"Sometimes we get those early rains in October, but this year we just haven't had them yet," he said.

For Marin County, at least the looming outage is about a quarter the size of the last one. Still, for some, it may once again mean ruined foodstuffs. 

"We had to close for two days, we lost a lot of product here, and employees, they don't make money," said Carlos Gongora, manager at Marin Coffee Roasters in Novato. 

Next door, Boca Pizzeria lost thousands of dollars in lost business and inventory, so new alerts bring dismay.  

"It's frustrating and managers talked with ownership, and we're saying, let's have a plan, but there's nothing we can really do," said Omar Ochoa, Boca General Manager. 

"I think it just makes us stronger," said shopper Laura Olivo of Novato, giving PG&E the benefit of the doubt. "If they feel in their wisdom that it's the right thing to do, I'm going to support them in their wisdom."

But others cut the utility no slack.  

"They gave all their money to executives and other things instead of their infrastructure, and now we're paying for it," said shopper Lance Desmond of Novato. 

Desmond was considering a $900 purchase of a gasoline-powered generator for his home. 

Pini Hardware sold 26 generators Monday in the hours following the PSPS alert. 

"People are panicking," said salesperson Dana Hixenbaugh.
"We had a whole stack of generators here, of all types, and they're gone. These are the only two left."

Shelves were emptying of batteries, flashlights, lanterns, and extension cords for the generators. 

And as residents gear up, fire crews do as well- ready to combine resources and pre-position themselves in case of fire. 
"When you combine normal fires with significant wind events, that's when we have catastrophic fires," said McTIgue, "and we want folks of the Bay Area to be prepared over the coming days."