Although most businesses in Arnold had closed their doors when the power went out on Wednesday, a few remained open on Thursday at noon.
Over 10 cars were lined up at the Kwik Serv gas station, waiting to use a single pump.
Employee Wells Horton directed cars in and out of the station.
“It’s been like this all day,” he said. “I heard some people saying they’ve been waiting in line over an hour.”
Only one pump and a cash register could be powered by the generator, Horton said. The lights inside were off, although items inside were still available for purchase.
“We only have unleaded right now, all of the other grades ran out,” he said.
Fuel was unavailable at the other two gas stations in town.
Jeff Grant, of Arnold, stood in line with two empty gas cans.
“This reminds me of 1974; the odd-even gas days down in the Bay Area,” he said.
Grant had just returned from Belize, where the power had been out for regular maintenance.
“It’s a third world country there; looks like we got the same thing here,” he said, laughing.
Grant was skeptical about the need for the power shutoff.
“This is kind of mismanagement, I think. Today is a beautiful day. Why did they shut the power off? Yesterday there was no wind; a little wind came last night,” he said. “But what are we going to do? They’ve got all the power.”
Grant said that he was prepared for an extended outage.
“Went out yesterday; got food; filled up all the cars; got the generators; we’re good,” he said. “Wish I had more gas cans though at this point.”
Ace Hardware remained open, although the lights were out. Employees guided customers around the store with flashlights, helping them find what they needed.
“It’s been very busy. Everybody wants flashlights, fuel, gas cans. Batteries are a big item. Generators are sold out now, we sold the last one a while ago,” owner Gary Hauer said. “The customers are in pretty good humor … People are coping with (the outage) as best they can … It’s an inconvenience more than anything; it’s not a disaster.”
As one customer left, he thanked Hauer profusely. He had lost phone service, and had urgently needed to communicate with his office in Modesto.
“We set him up at a desk, and he had his plans all laid out and could communicate. Ace is the place, we do whatever we can to keep people satisfied and happy,” Hauer said.
Several cars were parked in front of Ebbetts Pass Gas, which also kept its doors open.
In the Meadowmont Shopping Center, PG&E had set up a Community Resource Center to help residents cope with the outage. In an air-conditioned tent, local residents sat at two long tables chatting and charging phones and other electronic devices. Free water was handed out and portable toilets and washing stations were provided.
Buck Cooley, of Arnold, was using the center to charge a power pack.
“We’ve got everything we need. It’s no big deal. It’s like camping almost,” he said. “We still have gas. The only thing we don’t have is electricity. We’ve got water; some people don’t have water because they have wells.”
Cooley said that he hadn’t noticed much wind over the past two days.
“It was windier this morning, but nothing to turn your power off for. I think (the shutoff) was ridiculous,” he said.
Linda Rice, of Murphys, sat charging her phone in the tent. She was unhappy about the power shutoff.
“I think they need to get their (act) together and have better grids,” she said. “I’m managing … We have enough (supplies) for a couple of days.”
The only business open in the shopping center was Round Table Pizza.
In Murphys, most businesses had also closed for the duration of the outage. The parking lot at Sierra Hills Market was empty, and the pumps at the gas stations were closed. The Red Store on Highway 4 was among the establishments that remained open at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday.
Owner Angie Milliken stood in front of the store as a PG&E helicopter passed overhead.
“It was pretty crazy for Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday was pretty insane. People were almost panicked, buying batteries and flashlights and lanterns and propane bottles. I’ve not seen that ever,” she said. “It has slowed down, but people are still after the things that they need to deal with power outages. A lot of people are after parts – electric fixtures so that they can hook up a generator.”
Milliken said the store was out of propane, battery-operated lanterns and most batteries. She had put in a rush order to restock supplies.
“We’ll do what we can to get people through this,” she said. “Hopefully next time people will be a little more prepared.”
On Main Street, several tasting rooms were open, as was the Murphys Hotel and the Victoria Inn.
In the shopping complex on the east end of Main Street, the Jane & Jean Boutique was the only business open at 4:45 p.m. Although the lights were off, music wafted out of the open doors. Co-owners Sue Richmond and Laura Cashara stood behind the counter.
“We’ve had a really, really good day,” Richmond said.
The mother and daughter had a payment system set up through an iPad, allowing them to take credit and debit card payments.
“All of our customers today have been really happy that we’re here. We had a bride who’s getting married here this weekend and some other locals, so they were just stoked to have something to do,” Cashara said.
During the conversation, the power suddenly came back on.
“The lights are back on!” Cashara said, excitedly.
Although the co-owners had managed just fine without electricity, both were happy that the outage was over.
Not all of the towns in the county were so lucky. When the sun went down, electricity had yet to return to Avery.
However, the Avery Saloon managed to keep its doors open. At 7 p.m. several locals sat at the bar, which was illuminated by candles and lanterns.
“We’ve had a ball. It’s been really fun,” bartender Jamie Thomson said. “I would rather be out of power than watch Arnold lose as many people as Paradise did.”
David Orvis sat with several friends enjoying a pizza from Round Table in Arnold.
“The only disaster relief I need is pizza, beer and good company,” he said.