As of early Friday morning, PG&E was turning the power back on for much of the Bay Area, however over 50,000 homes and business are still without power in Sonoma and Napa.
Transmission line inspections by PG&E are continuing by helicopter and on the ground, and as NBC Bay Area reports, power was restored to about 60% of the 738,000 customers who had their power shut off as of 11 p.m. last night. Berkeley residents, for instance, began seeing the power turned back on around 5 p.m. Thursday, as KRON 4 reports — and despite most of the university and "flatlands" of Berkeley never losing power, UC Berkeley canceled classes from Wednesday to Friday.
The Berkeley campus was the site of a lot of chaos and panic on Thursday because of the potential loss of scientific research that requires constant refrigeration.
"Many friends and colleagues barely have enough emergency power to keep freezers cold and incubators running,” said graduate student Julia Torvi, speaking to the New York Times via email. "These two things hold millions of dollars of research, tens of years of effort, their contents being irreplaceable." Some of those freezers were getting transported across the Bay yesterday to UCSF for safe keeping, per the tweet below.
Moving trucks taking our -80 freezers to @ucsf because our @UCBerkeley building doesn’t have backup power and PG&E is shutting off the power (up to 5 days?!). Incredibly disruptive to our research.😔 Big shoutout to @RobertoZoncu for letting us put our cells in his incubators! pic.twitter.com/9r4HmJ2XdM— James Olzmann (@OlzmannLab) October 9, 2019
As of 4 a.m., the Chronicle reports that 250,000 PG&E customers remained without power, with about 80% or more restoration in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Marin, and Contra Costa counties. The majority of the 72,000 or so customers still in the dark in the Bay Area were in Napa and Sonoma counties as of 6 a.m. — with 35,700 still without power in Sonoma, and 13,500 in Napa.
A piece on Grist suggests that this is what we may have to look forward to in years to come as electrical grids continue to be taxed by climate change — and general infrastructure aging. And the picture isn't really one of quiet olden times — instead there was a lot of rumbling and smells of diesel generators.
A great many residents and politicians have been calling out PG&E for resorting to power shutoffs rather than spending their time maintaining safe transmission lines that can withstand winds. State senator Jim Nielsen, speaking to the New York Times said, "Millions without electricity is what a third-world country looks like, not a state that is the fifth-largest economy in the world."
Or, as Berkeley resident David Lerman put it to the Times, "The exclusive use of massive and historic poorly maintained transmission lines through vast heavily wooded and dry fueled mountains is absurd."