SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Jose Deputy City Manager Kip Harkness wasn’t going to sugarcoat it for residents early Wednesday. The PG&E power shutoffs would begin around 8 p.m. and the evening commute home from work will be challenging.
Harkness asked local residents to drive with “compassion” during their drive.
“The main impacts will be to the individual households and to the traffic signals,” he said. “The biggest impact we expect is when people come back home starting in the late afternoon and evening, especially at night. The big reminder is you won’t see a blinking red (light at the intersection), you will see nothing. So that means it’s a four-way stop and that’s where compassion is needed.”
He said the entire process with PG&E has been very frustrating for city officials.
“It’s very frustrating on our part,” Harkness told reporters. “To not know what’s going on for a large swath of our city and to have their power taken away. We would like to see PG&E make the investments in the infrastructure they need so this is not something they have to do with a wind or fire event.”
Harkness still could not tell reporters just how many people will lose their power in San Jose.
“That’s unknown until we get a sense of where the actual outages will happen,” he answered when asked about who will lose their power. “The maps provided by PG&E are actually rough and they are a bit larger than the areas that are going to be filly affected. We estimate as many as 200,000 people in San Jose could be affected.”
“PG&E talks in terms of a customer accounts. A customer account could be an entire apartment complex or an entire municipality that has its own transmission system.”
In preparation for a sustained outage, San Jose residents were scrambling to pick up emergency supplies of food and water and struggled to find backup generators, which were sold out at many locations.
“I have asthma and so does my daughter. And sometimes we have episodes where we can’t breathe. So we have to plug in the machine to get our medicine and breathe at night,” said Maribel Hernandez.
Hernandez had to broaden her search for a generator after the Home Depot on Story Road in San Jose sold out.
“I am very concerned. But in the worst-case scenario, we may just have to go the emergency room if we need help,” she said.
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San Jose is planning to move police and firefighters into neighborhoods without power. But some residents question if that will be enough to help countless people with medical conditions who need electricity to power breathing machines or other life-saving equipment.
“Just on my street, there’s like ten people who have dialysis and breathing machines. And they didn’t do anything,” said Mark Maxson, who bought a generator a month ago but worried about neighbors scrambling to come up with a last-minute plan themselves.