Among all news stories published on page one in 2019, none had the widespread impact of PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
Pacific Gas & Electric — after filing for bankruptcy in the wake of sparking the 2018 Camp Fire, the most destructive blaze in state history — took a new approach to mitigating the threat of wildfire by shutting down its own equipment in the event of high winds and dangerously dry conditions.
Area businesses are still reeling from the damage done after losing power, and the ability to operate without generator power, as some areas in Nevada County had their power shut down a half dozen times from September to November.
The shutoffs impacted hundreds of thousands of customers across the North State, with a collective $2 billion in estimated losses. Losses varied from $10,000 to $100,000 for Nevada County businesses.
“They’ve never dealt with anything like this in their 60 years of business,” Grass Valley Downtown Association Executive Director Marni Marshall said in November of area merchants.
The first shutoff, Oct. 9, largely caught the community and 43,217 PG&E customers in the county off guard, leaving many scrambling to find flashlights, get gas in their tanks and go about their daily lives. The Robinson Enterprises fleet fueling station off Lower Grass Valley Road in Nevada City saw many of those people, as it was one of the only gas stations to continue pumping gas.
That outage, affecting more than a half-million people in the North State, proved to be a just a preview of what was to come.
But as the area felt the pain of having no power, the community also pulled together to support those most impacted. Nevada County, officials working across all agencies, focused on helping prepare residents for future shutoffs to help mitigate the