Faced with mass evacuations in Sonoma County, a growing fire, historically strong winds and the prospect of power outages that could affect more than 2 million people, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday didn’t mince words.
“The next 72 hours is going to be challenging,” Newsom said. “I can sugarcoat it, but I’m not.”
The governor traveled to a mobile home park in American Canyon later in the day and spoke with residents who said they were warned about the power shut-off just a few hours before Pacific Gas & Electric Co. planned to cut the lights.
Lucille Constantine, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, told the governor that she tried to pick up extra medication from a nearby pharmacy before the store lost power.
But her health insurance under Medicare wouldn’t pay for the additional treatments until her existing supply ran out, she said. Constantine, 69, said she was told she could pay over $1,000 out of pocket for the medication and seek reimbursement later.
“You could get it if you have the money,” Constantine said. “But I can’t afford that right now. It’s a month’s rent.”
Another resident of Las Casitas mobile home park, Tom Mogg, showed Newsom a generator he purchased for $800 over the summer.
Mogg, 93, said he can’t afford for the food in his two refrigerators and freezer to spoil during an outage, and his partner, Lillian Crimmins, needs the generator to power a machine that helps her breathe at night.
“We figured if I have trouble, we’ve got a way to get it plugged in with the generator,” said Crimmins, 87.
Mogg blasted PG&E.
“For too many years, instead of fixing the infrastructure, hardening the lines and doing all the things they should have been doing to make this a first-class electrical system, they’ve been pouring it into executive salaries, stockholders,” Mogg said. “They are not pouring it into the areas that are going to affect them delivering energy to us.”
PG&E on Saturday began to cut power to 940,000 customers in Northern California to lower the risk of high winds — predicted to gust over 70 mph — knocking down live wires and sparking disastrous fires. More than 2 million people could lose power.
Meanwhile, the Kincade fire in Sonoma County raged on, forcing the evacuation of more than 90,000 people.
Officials ordered the towns of Healdsburg and Windsor evacuated. At 6 p.m., the order was extended to a wide swath of the Sonoma County coast. Areas under mandatory evacuation orders include Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, Guerneville and Bodega Bay, with zones of mandatory evacuation stretching all the way to the Pacific Ocean.