Hills residents concerned about spoiling food, cell phone charging in outages | News

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Residents of Portola Valley and Woodside who were to be affected by the PG&E power shutoffs were mostly concerned about food spoiling in warming refrigerators and freezers and keeping their cell phones and other electronics powered up.

But other factors also came into play, such as making sure vehicles were parked outside if there is no way to open garage doors manually.

Power was scheduled to be cut off in both communities at noon today. (Portola Valley issued a bulletin at around 3:40 this afternoon, stating that PG&E has notified officials that the power cutoff has been postponed until this evening.)

Woodside resident Hans Luemers said he planned to stay home because he was worried about hazardous conditions on the roads if traffic lights were out.

Luemers also planned to keep his refrigerator door closed since that would keep the food cold for several hours. He said he had a small backup generator that he planned to use to keep the freezer cold.

“Eventually I will take stuff out of the refrigerator, and put it in an ice chest if the power goes off for a long time,” he said.

PG&E has said that some customers could be without power for five days because all power lines have to be inspected and declared safe before the electricity can be turned back on.

Not all residents planned to stay and wait it out if their power went out.

Barbara Wood, who lives on Woodside Road, said she and her husband were going to stay with an aunt in Los Altos until they got the all-clear from PG&E.

Although she has a battery-powered cell phone charger, Wood said she was particularly concerned that reception from cell phone towers might be affected if there was no electricity.

“We plan to stick it out today, but we would feel much safer sleeping somewhere else,” Wood said. “The communications problem is very frightening.”

Kit Colman, an administration assistant at Woodside Village Church, was at work as usual Wednesday morning.

Colman said her big concern was making sure her 92-year-old mother, who lives near her home on Old La Honda Road, was taken care of.

“A couple of neighbors checked in with us who have gas stoves, so we can go over there to cook something for dinner,” Colman said.

The main concern at the church was keeping the Village Hub, a community coffee shop, open and running to give people another place to hang out, she said.

“The refrigeration is an issue, and we’re making arrangements to preserve as much (of perishable items) as we can,” Colman said.

Maggie Mah, who lives near Canada Road in Woodside, planned to attend a seminar in Half Moon Bay Wednesday morning, but changed her mind when she heard about the power shutoff.

“If there was an emergency, I didn’t want to be over the hill,” she said. “I checked the PG&E website and it said that my address wasn’t going to be affected, but you can’t always be sure.”

Jerry Anderson, who lives near Skyline Boulevard in Woodside, has a propane-powered generator that he can rely on to run his house for about a week before he would need a refill.

“If people don’t have generators, maybe an event like this will push them into installing one now,” Anderson said. “The power goes off for a couple of seconds and then comes back on when the generator kicks in.”

Roberts Market, the upscale grocery store in Woodside, has backup generators that can power the check stands and lighting in case of a power shutoffs, according to store manager Parker Scott.

The generators are hooked up to a gas line so they can keep operating, he said.

“Most of our frozen foods last a long time in the cases, but we’ll have to throw things out if the outages last a real long time,” Scott said.

Portola Valley resident Danna Breen said that the power in her neighborhood near the intersection of Alpine and Portola roads was still on at 3:40 p.m. but the latest she heard was that PG&E was due to shut it off at 8 p.m. The winds that had been predicted hadn’t materialized, she said.

“The people that I’ve talked to are feeling a little bit inconvenienced,” Breen said. “Nobody seems to know what the weather is going to be like.”

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