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In storm aftermath, Yountville Town Council sees need for more emergency prep, self-sustainability

A couple walks Tuesday afternoon beside Hopper Creek between Heather Street (not shown to the left) and homes on Oak Leaf Court to the right. | Photo by Kim Beltran

Nearly 1,400 PG&E customers in Yountville were without electricity Monday and Tuesday after trees toppled by hurricane-force winds knocked out a power distribution line on Mt. Veeder Road.

Other than being in the dark, however, the town and its residents suffered little to no damage from the powerful storm that, elsewhere in the county and state, flooded roadways, toppled massive trees into homes and left hundreds of thousands of people without power.

“Oak Circle flowed with water from Hopper Creek as designed for approximately three hours, but flows were minimal and contained in the gutter and into the nearest storm drain,” Public Works Director John Ferons said in an email to the Sun. “There were four Stop signs that were blown over in the wind.”

Ferons said there were four Public Works personnel working Sunday managing the storm flows and debris in the creek and on the streets.  There was also a Utility Operator working overtime to manage flows at the wastewater treatment plant Sunday afternoon and evening at the height of the storm.

Emergency backup generators kept the town’s Bardessono Pump Station and the Town Wastewater Treatment Plant/Corporation Yard running, said Ferons.

Town Hall and the Yountville Community Center are also served by generators so staff was able to work on Monday as well as open the Community Center as a resource for residents to charge electronics, warm up and have a cup of coffee.

Yountville’s power went out at 12:55 p.m. on Sunday and was restored Monday at 5:55 p.m.

As of Tuesday, 3,900 Napa County residents were still without power, according to PG&E spokesperson Megan McFarland.

“The storm impacting PG&E’s service area on Sunday was incredibly intense. In terms of total outages, this was one of the top three most damaging, single-day storms on record, comparable to storms in 1995 and 2008,” McFarland told the Sun. “More than 3,000 PG&E coworkers are out in force, working to assess damage and make necessary repairs. PG&E plans to complete the majority of damage assessments by Tuesday end of day...[and] to restore most accessible outages by end of day Thursday.”

In a report to the Yountville Town Council at its regular meeting Tuesday afternoon, Cal Fire/Napa County Fire Chief Mike Marcucci said the agency’s Sonoma-Napa-Lake dispatch center fielded 400 calls for service on Sunday alone, and 130 of those were in Napa County. The Big Tree Road facility normally receives about 68 calls a day, Marcucci said.

“Your fire station across the highway was very, very busy that day as you can imagine, not only in the town but in the surrounding areas of greater Yountville, as we covered trees down into structures, vehicles, power lines,” Marcucci told the council. “You name it, things were happening at a pretty rapid pace to the point where there were times when we had 10 to 11 calls pending, awaiting a fire engine to get dispatched.

“It’s one of the busier days we’ve had probably in our history with Napa County Fire,” he added.

The council also heard from PG&E Government Relations Representative Mark Van Gorder, who said Sunday’s storm was much more powerful and much more widespread than anyone had predicted.

“There are hundreds and likely thousands of trees down and our crews are simply overwhelmed with the amount of restoration that they have to perform,” said Van Gorder, who lives in Marin County were winds during the height of the storm were clocked at 102 miles per hour.

The prolonged power outage was a reminder, some council members said, for both the town and its residents to be better prepared for the next incident.

The town in the past few years has escalated its emergency preparedness education, hosting workshops and seminars on different topics.

This week’s storm, they said, only cements the fact that these safety seminars need to continue.

“I think we ought to prioritize our emergency preparedness in several different sectors: What happens when when you have an earthquake? What happens when you have a storm? What do you need in your toolbox to make it through all of those things,” Council member Pam Reeves said.

And residents need to think about how to be self-sufficient if they find themselves without power again.

“I just remember as a kid having to go for a couple of days without power and you know, kerosene lamps and cooking with a fire stove and whatnot,” Van Gorder said. “I can’t help but think looking ahead, with climate change and the things that we’re all trying to prepare for – and I hope we don’t have more power outages due to storms like this – but I think it’s important for people to be prepared for a day, two days or even three.”