Winter storms that began Christmas weekend have wreaked havoc on communities throughout the Sierras, causing state and local officials to declare a state of emergency. Power outages caused by the storms have left some areas in the dark for over two weeks. Some Calaveras County residents suffered a full week without electricity, heat, or water, and thousands of others in the area had several days without power.
According to Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), power has been restored to Calaveras and Amador County residents, who are part of their Stockton Division, as well as those in the Humboldt power districts, but others in the Sierras are still without, going on two weeks since the outages began.
In a video released Jan. 1, Jason Regan, PG&E’s deputy incident commander for the “12-27-21 low snow event,” gave a detailed view of the company’s internal outage management tool, hoping to give the public insight into the extent and scale of the work PG&E undertakes to restore power after large winter storms like this.
Regan explained, "Not only do we go assess the damage, but we actively look to restore customers’ critical facilities, fire departments, hospitals, libraries, schools. ...We’re putting temporary generation in place, we’re isolating our grid to configure in a way we can restore main towns, main streets, and then start working on side roads."
The map showed viewers the current outages at that time, which still included large numbers of customers in Northern and Central California and the Sierras, including Calaveras and Amador County.
According to Regan, the most extensive damage occurred at the 2,000-4,000 foot level across the state, while those at higher and lower elevations fared better.
Regan’s map displayed a mix of outages in the small (1-49 customers ) to medium (50-499) range for the Calaveras County area, which is part of the Stockton Division.
Regan pointed out areas of the blue and red speckled map that were in the final stages of restoration, saying, "We have a mix of both active repairs and ongoing assessments or pending assessments."
The detailed video explains how the circuits work, with main lines and “taps” that Regan likened to a “main highway with off-ramps,” pointing out that most of the damages occurred on these “off-ramps,” creating as many as 10 repair locations for a single outage.
Showing detailed views of a part of Amador County, Regan zoomed in on an active outage near Gold Mine Road in Pine Grove, saying "Gold Mine Road is a tap off of our circuit” and explaining that the circuit has 70 customers, with multiple “taps” showing damages.
"These are the type of repairs, these are the type of areas where we’re having challenges,” said Regan of the Pine Grove neighborhood.
Zooming out to look at the area as a whole, or even the state, the map paints a picture of the large scale of repairs the company is tasked with.
Work continues to the north in Sierra, Nevada, and Placer counties. Most of the remaining outages are individual households or pockets of neighborhoods, in the range of 1-49 customers affected. A few outages in the Grass Valley area are larger, with up to 130 customers affected, with an expected repair date of Jan. 11, according to the PG&E outage center website.