Episode 222 S6-22
PG&E Power Outage
The Endless Night Ch 22
Today on the podcast, Chin and I explore what happened during the PG&E outage. As an individual who experienced this unusual circumstance, we'll explore what went right, what went wrong and some of the conspiracy theories, looming around the incident. The chapter from The Endless Night thriller novel focuses on Vince's struggle to find his wife, despite the challenges he faces.
In the fall of 2019, PG&E, a major power company in California, shut the power down to 35 counties throughout the state. This heavily publicized event evoked an insane public response. The media hyped the stories to the world. Many homeowners made mistakes, but prepared individuals barely skipped a beat. The conspiracy theories abounded, leaving individuals across the globe speculating on the specific reasons behind the outage.
In April of 2019, PG&E announced through text messages, phone calls, and a series of radio advertisements that there would be a possibility of shutdowns. Months later, reality hit California. In October, the shutdown began. Over 60,000 customers were shut down, and 1400 of those were in the counties of Napa and Sonoma. The Monday morning shut down was put in force after the National Weather Service issued a red flag (fire warning) for Monday through Wednesday. PG&E had power restored to the affected individuals by early Tuesday, but they received a notice that more shutdowns were coming.
On Tuesday, PG&E proceeded with the inspections on the lines that they insisted were essential. However, as the "wind" increased during the night, over 738,000 customers were affected by a widespread grid shutdown. There were over 35 counties, and 1.5 million Californians were affected in total.
PG&E insists that public safety from the wildfire threat was the driving force behind the shutdown. Foot crews physically walked the lines, and helicopters patrolled the high tension wires and rural areas. PG&E stands behind its concern for public safety. This year, they have been dumping millions of dollars into clearing branches. During the line inspections, fifty potential hazards were found, including a tree on a line and a pole that was blown down.
PG&E has been held responsible for many of the Californian wildfires, including the Santa Rosa and Paradise fires. To minimize future risk, they initiated the shutdowns. Government representatives point their fingers at climate change, insisting that the outages are real-life examples of how climate change is affecting us.
The people of California freaked out. In California, we do not experience massive storms that can take out power for extended periods. The outage only lasted two days for most urban dwellers and four for most country folks. Stumped on how to exist without the power grid, the people rushed to buy a generator. You couldn't find one inside a one hundred mile radius around the outage zones. The cell phones started to fail as battery back-ups in the cell towers ran out, and even the landlines faltered because of this. The majority of individuals had a hard time dealing with the circumstances and the disruption of their normalcy bias. The media encouraged chaos by broadcasting the heartbreaking stories of hardship to the globe.
As a person who studies and practices the preparedness lifestyle, there were things my family and I did right and things we did wrong. Entertained by many of the powerless activities we take part in like shooting and board games, my family hardly skipped a beat. I had plenty of lamp oil for my lanterns, and we had cash on hand in preparation for the inability to use credit cards. We previously invested in solar chargers for our electronics, and they worked great.
We had headlamps for a light at night and learned a new trick. When the elastic on your headlamp wears out, attach it to the back of a baseball cap, and wear the hat backward. We had plenty of good books on hand and read to each other at night. Having an easy pour spout water container made doing dishes easier. Our freezer is packed, and after two days, it was still very frozen. Although my income is power dependent, my husband's isn't, so at least we still had one income source still earning.
We did encounter some challenges during the experience. We didn't water our chickens the day before, and the day of the outage, they needed water. We were able to bleed the line from the house, but it would have become a major problem very quickly. We found out, it takes a lot of water to flush a toilet, so having a potty in a box or alternative would be a great idea. The kids and I did get bored during the day, and it was amusing to watch them and myself wandering around looking for an electronic device to entertain us. We do have a fair of meat in our freezer, and it wouldn't have lasted forever, encouraging me to make a better plan for it if there is an extended outage.
The tire on my car had a slow leak, and with the lack of power at the gas stations, there was no way to fill it. The problem made me think of the small things we put off that we should make sure are taken care of, just in case circumstances change in the future. This preparation includes having gas stored at home for emergencies. The gas stations with power or generators were overwhelmed, and the lines were insane.
We did not have enough batteries, and there is something to be said for a quality flashlight. All of the clocks in my house are digital, and it was impossible to tell time without a working cell phone. The generators in the local areas ran non-stop, and those without couldn't buy one. The products in the refrigerator were going bad after two days of not having power. Pre-planning for the essentials in the fridge would be a wise idea for the future.
Many conspiracy theories are going around about the real cause of the outage. The first idea is that PG&E was giving Californians an example of how grid-dependent they are. The more people that go off-grid, the less money PG&E gets, but even if you are off-grid at home, your daily life in the towns is still highly dependent on the grid.
Another theory is that this is just a further institution of the UN resolution "Agenda 28." This agenda focuses on moving people out of rural areas and into smart cities. Pushing the human population into urban centers would reduce the number of vehicles driven daily and leave more natural wildlife areas for the good of the planet.
One theory that I agree with is the concept that the government of California is trying to get its citizens more disaster-ready. We are being encouraged to accept the fact that there will be future outages. Also, the whole world watched as California struggled, encouraging them to get prepared. The preparedness lifestyle is becoming more popular, and this event certainly helped continue that trend.
Another conspiracy theory is that PG&E engineered the outage as a way for the government of California to continue to push the Climate Change Agenda forward. After the Paradise fire, Jerry Brown said there would be more fires, and he would make believers out of the worst Climate Change skeptics, stating, "The flogging will continue until you submit to my agenda."
The use of helicopters with unique Lidar technology was also a scrutinized topic. Uncomfortable with their attention, many citizens felt violated by the scanning of their residences. These lidar systems scan, landscape, and vegetation but can also penetrate structures. The system instantly uploads the information they gather to the cloud for "future analysis." I find this kind of hard to believe because there is no reason to power down the grid to do this surveillance. However, the data was collected and stored for any number of potential future uses.
As far fetched as this may seem, many individuals that have entirely different pasts than power management compromise the PG&E board. Jeffrey L. Bleich is the former senior adviser director to the National Intelligence Committee and was a special advisor to President Obama. Alejandro D. Wolf worked for the State Department for thirty-four years. Norma Mead Brownwell at least has a history working for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Another troubling caveat to the outage is that last year, California stopped public funding HAM repeater locations. This lack of state funding may not seem very important. However, during the blackout, cell phone towers began to fail. Then, despite the application of generators into fields to run the poles, the landlines started to fail. Without HAM systems in a long term disaster scenario, there may be no way to communicate with the outside world. I should note that it is not illegal to operate a HAM radio in CA, but they won't reach as far now.
During the outage, fires still occurred. One fire started in a garbage truck initially, and another began because of a "controlled burn" that got out of control. After twenty-four hours, people started to panic, and after forty-eight a migration to the power areas within local communities was in full swing. This instant activity with this small outage when people knew the power would be back, makes me very concerned for an extended event when there is little hope of the power returning.
The Changing Earth Series
Chin Gibson is the mystery prepper. Friend to all and known to none. His real identity hidden from the public, Chin is well known to the online prepper community as the go to resource for finding a community member to solve your problem. He is an awesome people connector and does his best to unite the voices educating the masses about being ready for a unforeseen life challenge. Chin will be joining Sara to co-host The Changing Earth Podcast.