It was a Thanksgiving week to remember.
Unfortunately, we will remember it for the wrong things — like snowfall, downed trees, freezing temperatures, blocked roads, cars in ditches, power outages, no water, no heat and, for many, not much of a holiday.
A few of us, certainly, were frozen- or blacked-out of long-planned gatherings of family and friends and had to hastily make other plans.
Looking back, it may be tough to come up with much to be thankful as the holiday recedes into the weather record books.
But consider how much worse might have things been were it not for the efforts of PG&E crews, county snowplow operators, tow truck drivers, plumbers, paramedics, firefighters and others who kept our communities running in the worst of circumstances.
More than 15,000 PG&E customers were without power at the beginning of last week. But by Thanksgiving itself, the count was down to about 1,000 over Tuolumne and Calaveras counties.
For those unfortunate customers, warming stations were set up in the Arnold and Twain Harte areas, which were hardest hit by outages. PG&E even contributed turkeys to a Thanksgiving dinner served up at the Tuolumne County warming station, which a company spokeswoman conceded was little consolation to those forced out of their homes by the outages. As of Monday, power had been restored to all.
With some justification, the closed roads, neighborhoods without power for days, the trees that fall through kitchens, the cars that hang precariously on embankments make the headlines.
The efforts of those who clear the roads, restore the power and cut and remove the trees probably don’t get the play they deserve. These crews work oudoors in some of the worst conditions imaginable. And, as storm-related work really can’t be scheduled, many of the line crews, plow operators and tree-service workers had plans disrupted and sound sleeps interrupted to answer the call of duty.
Between Nov. 21 and 28, according to company spokeswoman Nicole Liebelt, about 375 PG&E crew members, 250 trucks and seven helicopters worked outages in Tuolumne, Amador and Calaveras counties. Company crews from as far away as San Francisco, San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield were part of the force, as were mutual aid crews from Southern California Edison.
On the roads, some 25 plows were busy clearing about 400 miles of Tuolumne County roads above 2,000 feet, said Roads Supervisor Barry Bynum. In Calaveras County, an armada of more than 20 plows, blowers and graders were busy clearing well over 200 miles road during the worst of the snowstorm. In addition, crews in the two county’s received nearly 200 downed tree calls.
Caltrans crews were also busy clearing Highways 108 and 4 to the closure points and, with the low-elevation snow, occasional stretches of Highways 49 and 26.
Anyone listening to a radio scanner Nov. 21 or 22 got a pretty good idea of how busy our emergency crews were. Calls — outages, trees, stuck cars, medical aids — rolled in every few minutes.
The storms, at least for now, have abated and things are largely back to normal. But winter hasn’t begun yet and foul weather will almost certainly return.
So the next time you pass one of these hard-working crews in the comfort of your heated car and get a chance, thank them for all they do. These men and women deserve it.
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