Here's how to prepare for PG&E outage

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Have suggestions?

You’re unlikely to be the only person who loses power. Have a suggestion that others can learn from? Please feel free to share it with us at will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com.

PG&E plans to shut off power to about 262,000 residents in Sonoma County and nearly 800,000 customers in Northern and Central California.

The utility started cutting power around midnight Tuesday or early Wednesday morning. PG&E will start to restore power Thursday around noon. Power restoration could take five days to complete.

Until we get more information from PG&E, we can’t tell you if your home will lose power. With that in mind, here are other key questions and answers to help you get through the temporary outage.

How will I see without power?

Make sure you have flashlights handy, and it would be prudent to have extra batteries in case it’s an extended outage. Your cellphone may have a flashlight you can use, but that could drain its battery. Consider buying backup power chargers to keep phones running for an extended period.

What can I eat?

Food in your refrigerator will only stay cold for about four hours, with a freezer keeping its temperature for a day or two, according to the Food and Drug Administration. This also will affect medicines that need to be refrigerated.

Consider stocking up on nonperishable food that can be stored without a fridge or freezer. Ice or dry ice can be used to preserve your perishables a little longer.

How will I pay for things?

A power shut-off likely will knock out credit card machines, some electronic point-of-sale systems and ATMs. However, there’s still time before an outage is expected to occur to get some cash to have on hand. During the outage, cash, checks and farmers’ markets may be more helpful than usual.

What if I have a phone charger in my car?

That’s helpful, and brings up another point: consider the effects an outage might have on your vehicle, particularly if you drive an electric car.

Make sure you have enough gas in your tank to get around. It may be more challenging than usual to find a working air pump during an outage. Also, ensure you can manually open your garage door if you park in your garage.

What if I need to drive somewhere?

Once you’re behind the wheel, keep in mind that traffic signals and streetlights on some parts of your route might not work and use appropriate caution driving.

Depending on where you want to go, you may have to cross a Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit Line. Those trains are diesel-powered and are expected to keep running.

A SMART spokesman said the rail system is ready to use backup power if an outage affects its electric components, such as crossing arms and signals.

What else does PG&E recommend?

Make sure you have important phone numbers for public services, family and friends stored somewhere. Consider writing them down or printing them out in case you can’t access an electronic address book.

If you use electronic equipment for medical purposes, have a backup plan.

Turn off appliances like air conditioners, washers, dryers, ovens, stoves and irons to avoid sudden startups, including those that produce heat and could cause fires.

Make sure you have a manual can opener.

Only use generators that are safely installed to avoid endangering yourself and others, including PG&E crews working to restore service.

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

Have suggestions?

You’re unlikely to be the only person who loses power. Have a suggestion that others can learn from? Please feel free to share it with us at will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com.

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