Powerful storm leaves us with a few thankful moments

Union Democrat staff

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.

The Union Democrat
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