Thousands inconvenienced without power in Santa Rosa

Wednesday was a chilly night without power for some 6,000 Santa Rosa residents. The public safety power shutoff was curtailed several times, with Pacific Gas & Electric dropping west Sonoma County only hours before it was to go dark.

But the east side, along Highway 12 heading to Sonoma, was not spared, losing power at about 8 a.m. Wednesday, and hoping to have it back about the same time Thursday. 

"I want these to be done, get the power back and get back to our holiday festivities," said Skyhawk resident James Perkins, watching his two children play basketball on the driveway at sunset. Lanterns and flashlights were already on in the house. 

A generator, delivered only a few hours before, was connected to the refrigerator to keep food cold. But it isn't powerful enough to provide heat. 

"I think we'll be okay, we have a lot of blankets to stay warm," said mom Gretchen Perkins, "and we'll just pile them on." 

County officials are monitoring the outage, gratified it is smaller than originally predicted, and not as disruptive as previous ones. 

"It's still a horrible inconvenience and a financial impact, I know that," said Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Rabbitt. 

At an evening briefing, PG&E said improving weather conditions allowed the outage to be scaled-back, and they did so to minimize hardship.

"We've learned a lot of lessons, gotten a lot of feedback, and listened to you and we know the current way we're doing this needs to improve," said PG&E President and CEO Andy Vesey.

Vesey said the utility is working to make PSPS events less frequent and more targeted. 

Rabbitt and other local leaders have their doubts. 

"I want to believe them," said Rabbitt, " but I don't see the system hardening that needs to take place, the breaking of the grids into smaller segments, and really identifying those high risk areas, any action actually happening." 

Many coping with another outage are trying to be philosophical. 

"Collectively we're getting the hang of it, though you can still feel the frustration with the inconvenience," said Skyhawk resident Mike Lubas.

"We try to put things in perspective, it could be much worse."

And because of the elevated risk of a wind-driven blaze, Santa Rosa crews remain on Red Flag alert until Thursday morning, when the winds are expected to ease. 

That's when PG&E will begin inspecting and re-energizing its equipment, aiming for complete restoration by the end of the day. 

The bottom line is lives, we didn't lose anybody, so is it worth it? Of course it's worth it, what's one life worth?" said Rincon Valley resident John Peretto.

The Perkins household, and others, have found a silver lining. 

As Megan, 9 and her brother Colin, 11 dribbled the basketball until dark, their parents noted when power is out, they all have more time together, without screens.  

"Normally we'd be on our phones or watching TV," said James, "but now we're outside doing family stuff, so there are a few pros to it, but very few!"