The massive blackouts imposed across Northern California on Wednesday led to a run on gasoline, portable generators and other supplies while retailers struggled to serve customers.
Millions were expected to lose power as Pacific Gas & Electric shut down service in a bid to avoid wind-driven fires caused by downed power lines.
Angie Sheets of El Dorado Hills outside Sacramento noticed that generators were flying off the shelves at the local Costco as she shopped for groceries earlier in the week.
Considering the nearly $1,000 worth of food she planned to purchase and the imminent power outage, Sheets said she called her husband to talk about buying a generator for their home.
“By the time I had done that, the last big generator was gone off the shelves,” she said. Her husband, a law enforcement officer, later found a generator at a Costco in Rancho Cordova.
On Tuesday night, they filled their bathtubs in case water service was disrupted.
Sheets said she went to Safeway to pick up more bottled water and saw a line of cars snaked around a gas station parking lot.
“In this particular area they did say we could lose power for up to seven days,” Sheets said. “I think that’s what’s making people on edge, the fear of the unknown and wanting to be safe for your family.”
Denise Boldway, owner of Blossoms Florist in Eureka in Humboldt County, said she was getting some power via an extension cord connected to a generator in her RV.
But the generator isn’t strong enough to keep powering the cooler that holds her roses, dahlias and other flowers needing refrigeration, she said.
“I take what I need out of the cooler and close the door,” Boldway said in a telephone interview. “I’m probably going to lose some flowers.”
PG&E’s isn’t expected to turn the power back on til Thursday afternoon, she said.
In Eureka, “it’s pretty much pandemonium here,” she said. “You couldn’t get gas last night and there was a two-hour wait at the grocery store to check out.”
Stoplights were out Wednesday, and traffic was backed up in every direction, she said.
”Still, “I fully support PG&E in this,” Boldway said. “The winds are 30 to 45 mph today and you don’t even want to walk outside. I feel like it’s totally justified.”
In the East Bay, as residents waited for the power cuts to begin, many stores had run out of `batteries for flashlights.
Raley’s, a grocery chain based in West Sacramento, said nine of its stores affected by the blackouts remained open, but refrigerated and frozen goods were not available at its stores in Red Bluff, Chico and Jackson and at its Bel-Air store in Auburn.