With Redding’s Snowmageddon Power Restoration, No. 2 (Percent) is the Unluckiest Number

SUNDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: REU restored power to my neighborhood. Thank you, REU. I will never take my electricity for granted again.

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I hope that by the time you read this I’m sitting in a house that has functioning electricity, a home with the heat cranked up to a toasty 68 degrees, a home where, when I walk into a room and flip a switch, light magically appears, a home where I can enjoy all the modern conveniences I’ve come to appreciate and depend upon.

I hope all that, because I’ve had it with waiting for the power to be restored to my house. I’ve had it with 47-degree interior temperatures, of packing snow in ice chests to keep food from spoiling.

I’ve had it sleeping away from home because I just couldn’t stand being that cold at night.

(Yes, Doni is aware she needs to change her filter.)

And that’s the thing about having the power out during Redding’s “Snowmageddon” as opposed to the Carr Fire: it was possible to sleep inside a powerless house in July and August. The same is less true now, if there’s a house with zero heat, especially for those with children, the elderly and the disabled.

I am blessed with many options. I’m staying with my twin for now (thank you, Shelly!), but I’ve had lots of generous offers of couches, guestrooms and beds, and even, in the case of my daughter-in-law’s mom (who already had a houseful of snow refugees) to share her king-sized bed (thank you, Paula!) I’m so lucky! But what about those who lack offers, relationship resources, or even enough blankets and warm clothing?

I have tried to be a good pioneer woman. I really have. I have made the best of the situation. I have cooked over my gas stove (ignited with a match).

I have bundled up in my down coat while inside, keeping the doors open during the day, because it’s literally warmer outside than in.

On a sunny winter Redding day, it’s warmer outside than inside Doni’s house.

I have tried to keep my sense of humor and spirit of gratitude, because yes, I know, it could always be worse. In the beginning, it did help to know I wasn’t alone, that there were scores of us toughing it out in powerless homes. Misery does love company. We started out with tens of thousands of us unfortunate souls without power, and now, supposedly, we’re down to less than 600 hearty, pioneering homesteaders.

“Hang in there homesteaders!!!” Facebook illustration created by Naomi Yamamoto of Redding.

But as the days and hours passed without power, my Pollyanna side grew cranky. I could not believe that one day followed the other and another and another and yet another without power.

What we have here is a cold version of the Carr Fire situation with power outages and The Three Little Pigs scenario where people run from house to house. family member to family member, friend to friend, trying to find the most reliable electricity.

I live in Redding, where Redding Electric Utility is responsible for getting power to my home. But there are thousands and thousands of north state residents who depend upon PG&E for their power, and since last week’s snow storm, many of them remain as my neighbors and I are: powerless.

For the record, I’m not one of those people who is pissed at REU for not getting power to my street by now. Nor am I one of those people who believes REU has intentionally ignored older neighborhoods, or that it’s favored wealthy neighborhoods (the ones remaining after the Carr Fire). I know in my heart that those REU staffers are doing everything humanly possible to return power to as many customers as possible. Even so, one look at REU’s Facebook page and you can see desperate residents clamoring for information and begging for help.

What about my street? What about us? Don’t forget us!

Redding’s Facebook pages are filled with humorous posts related to the aftermath of the Redding snow.

In those posts an REU representative offers words of assurance, letting people know that yes, REU is aware of all the outages, and it’s trying its hardest to get power to the people. I applaud the REU staff responsible for responding to those hundreds of FB messages. I believe that when this is all over, and life returns to quasi normal, REU employees deserve time off with bonuses. or at the very least, lots of alcohol.

That said, I confess that I was beginning to panic a little yesterday as I saw more and more people on Facebook proclaim with glee, “YAY! WE HAVE POWER!”

I’m happy for them. I really am. And I’m heartened to hear REU’s reports that it’s restored 98 percent of its customers’ power. Wow. The good news is that most of Redding’s REU customers have power. The bad news is that my neighbors and I have the dubious distinction of being part of of the unlucky 2 percent who are still powerless. I was beginning to feel as if REU had forgotten about our street, until I combed through REU’s FB page and found some comments from neighbors, like this one, where I learned more about our area’s complex situation than I’d known before:

“Please, us too. 🙂 Our houses pull power from the alley between Almond and Walnut. Lines were down and firefighters put caution tape in front of the alley. REU came and turned off all the power. Just patiently waiting for repairs.”

Wow. Well that explained why our area started with a brownout that turned into a blackout.

Here was REU’s response:

“Several downed trees on lines that feed that area. We are aware.”

That didn’t bode too well for us, since “we are aware” is not the same as “we’re going to fix it”.

Alas, hope sprang eternal when another neighbor again asked about our area last night, to which someone from REU replied more specifically.

“We are very aware of the issues in your areas. We restored a pocket of homes in downtown this evening and will be working in your area tomorrow. Thank you so much for your patience.”

You’re welcome, REU. And thank you for restoring power to Redding. And I’m not just saying that to suck up.

Much.

Oh happy day! REU said it will be working in my area today. I’ll be watching for them, as will my fellow neighbors, including a couple who live around the corner, who’s, as they say in disaster lingo, been “sheltered in place” the whole time, thanks to their wood-burning fireplace.

But they can’t hang on much longer.

“ … We are on our last logs. Probably looking at leaving tomorrow for a motel.”

For their sake, I hope that the 98 percent of restored REU customers includes motels.

In the meantime, I have every confidence that eventually, all the power will be restored to the north state by REU, PG&E and other agencies brought in to help. Then, we’ll move onto the next phase of or our latest new disaster-normal: Cleanup following widespread destruction that made the north state look as if it had been walloped by a deadly hurricane, rather than an overnight snowfall.

Quartz Hill Road near Caldwell/Lake Redding Park.

We’ll adapt to the incessant whine of chainsaws and wood chippers. We’ll replant and we’ll replace.  And just like after the Carr Fire, we will rebuild.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Pollyanna/Donianna, my fingers, toes, and eyes are crossed for you and your neighbors. If you need a warm place, I have a comfy futon in our Redding cottage . . .

  2. Avatar Tim says:

    I wouldn’t go as far as say “intentionally ignored older neighborhoods,” but city services sure seem to favor the rich & influential (it might be interesting to FOIA the logs from Redding’s 8 snowplows to see just when, say, Greenstone Pl was cleared in relation to other streets). On the other hand, newer neighborhoods are less likely to have above ground utilities so their power may be more resilient to storm damage.

    PS: was the fireplace pictured in part 1 of your “old house remodel” series decorative or did it not survive the update?

    • Re the fireplace, I’m making a list of things I’d do differently to be prepared for the next north state disaster. One of the things I’m kicking myself over is when I bought the house, it had a wood-burning fireplace. But i didn’t even get it inspected, because what I know about myself is I didn’t want to schlep wood and deal with chopping wood and storing wood and the mess and potential black widows on wood and termites and all that. So I bought an electric insert that’s a heater, which works awesome…. when there’s electricity.

      This whole experience makes we wonder if that was a wise choice. Then again, how often does the power go out in the middle of Redding … it’s not like I live in Igo, or, sorry Steve, Palo Cedro. Well, I have the answer to that question, and so far, I’ve dealt with power outages here in the city proper twice in seven months.

      For new construction and remodels, the county doesn’t allow wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, to preserve air quality. So I think when people are looking to buy new homes, finding a place with a wood-burning feature is a plus, until they’re entirely banned, too.

  3. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    Our power here in Palo Cedro was supposed to be restored by 8:00 last night, according to PG&E. It wasn’t. Now they’re projecting 8:00 PM on Monday.

    I unwisely told my wife that the projections translate to “whenever.” She’s running short on patience and humor.

    • I feel for you, Steve. And I think that’s part of the frustration: expectations that the power will be restored based upon information (either official or via the grapevine), and then the hopes are dashed, once again, with another day without power.

      I know in my neighborhood I’m in contact with the neighbors on both sides of me, as well as in who lives in the alley, and we’re constantly texting each other, “I’m away right now, but checking to see if there’s power …” One neighbor is disabled, and pretty much stuck at home, and has been our consistent eyes and ears. She has a wood-burning stove, which is the only way she’s been able to deal with the outages.

      You made me laugh at the part where you told your wife the projections translate to “whenever” … That’s kind of how I felt about the first REU response that said it “was aware” of the problem. Being aware doesn’t guarantee getting it done.

      I hate to feel like such a damn whiner, because I know that in the scheme of things, having a home without power in the winter is not the end of the world … but still … I’m so over it.

      I wish you the very, very best and hope you get your power restored asap. Good luck!

  4. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    One thing I do not miss after leaving California is PG&E. My friends in Redding always lorded over me about how REU was better but now it seems REU has sunk to PG&E depths. Am I wrong?

    • Oh, I really do think that REU is doing the best it can with the resources it has. I mean, if you look at its FB page (and PB&E’s) you get an idea of the scope of work it’s done, and what a huge job it had after the snow. I would guess that the power outage situation was worse than with the Carr Fire, because in this case, downed limbs and trees destroyed power lines, so it’s not just a matter of reconnecting power, but repairing poles and lines.

      I am impressed with REU’s communication with frustrated customers on its FB page … something I don’t think I saw on PG&E’s FB page. Generally speaking, I think REU does a better job with PR and communication.

  5. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    If you drive around this town very much you can see the HERCULEAN effort that it must be taking to get things up and running again. I’ve NEVER seen so many downed trees and parts of trees. Downed trees and limbs take a lot of time to remove before the crews can even get to work on the power part of the equation. Of course, you all realize that I’m saying all this from the comfort of my warmly, power restored home. It’s interesting how much the sanguine level rises in direct proportion to the comfort of one’s abode. And Doni . . . maybe some sour cream coffee cake would help the workers remember you sooner next time there’s a “situation!” LOL!! Although, given the chill-factor maybe a hot toddy would work even better!!

  6. Avatar Candace C says:

    Doni, I have a small pile of wood left that your neighbors are more than welcome to. I think it’s enough for at least a day or two. Only caveat is that they or someone they know would need to come get it.

  7. OK, signing off for a while to assess my home’s situation. Stay warm!

  8. Avatar Janine Hall says:

    I have never been so grateful for the wood stove and gas stove that I had installed when I bought my old house. Five long days of stoking the stove and trying to keep my 93 year old mother comfortable. We are so spoiled with the comfort of electricity, and I do feel bad for all those that did have the smallest comforts. A big thank you to REU.

  9. Avatar Russell Hunt says:

    Charter needs to pro-rate our bundle bills . 5 days without is still non-service no matter if it’s Big G’s fault.