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Clearing trees, restoring power major parts of ongoing Central Coast storm response

The outside of Asilomar Social Hall with a County of Monterey Resource Center sign in front on a rainy day.
Janelle Salanga
/
KAZU News
A County of Monterey Resource Center sign sits in front of the Asilomar Social Hall in Pacific Grove on Feb. 7. It was one of five such places for area residents to take refuge if their power went out during the weekend's storm.

This weekend’s ferocious winds and constant rain wreaked havoc on the power grid, with thousands of PG&E customers across the Monterey Bay region still without power.

Before Wednesday afternoon, most Monterey Peninsula customers were in the dark. Some of the outages had been going on since Sunday.

As of 7 p.m. Wednesday evening, PG&E reports the majority of the 4,074 customers still affected by a power outage are in unincorporated Monterey County (3,000 customers).

Similarly, most of the 6,212 outages in Santa Cruz County are in unincorporated areas (6,138 customers), especially the Santa Cruz Mountains and San Lorenzo valley.

Due to the storm, California Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency covering Monterey and Santa Cruz counties on Friday. Monterey County’s Board of Supervisors ratified a similar proclamation Tuesday.

As part of Monterey County’s storm response, it set up a number of resource centers starting Monday open 10 a.m. through 6 p.m and has added centers throughout the week.

Resource centers provide respite, community

At Asilomar Social Hall in Pacific Grove, 65 people had already checked in by mid-morning Wednesday. The center provides light refreshments, blankets, a warm gathering place, Internet and a charging station.

A courtesy charging station in the Asilomar Social Hall on Feb. 7. Charged powerbanks sit on a ledge with protruding cables in front of brochures with info about the area for tourists.
Janelle Salanga
/
KAZU News
A courtesy charging station in Asilomar Social Hall on Feb. 7.

“I know a lot of my friends are out of power,” said Tony Leyba, a Monterey resident. “I reach out to my friends to find out if they need any help going to the grocery store or, you know, things of that nature.”

He’s one of the lucky people whose power didn’t go out. But he still wanted to come out and talk with people at the resource center.

“It's just an organization that is … they do so much for so many people,” he said. “And so I want to be part of that.”

Leyba was one of the thousand people who used the county’s five resource centers on Tuesday. That number was up from Monday, when county officials said 500 people utilized the centers.

The reception area inside Asilomar Social Hall on Feb. 7. It's a lodge-like area filled with about 40 to 50 people. The focal point is three people sitting at a table with blankets, granola bars, water, Wi-Fi information and other resources to welcome visitors.
Janelle Salanga
/
KAZU News
The reception area inside Asilomar Social Hall on the morning of Feb. 7.

The county centers were open today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at:

  • Asilomar Conference Center Social Hall: 800 Asilomar Blvd, Pacific Grove
  • Monterey Public Library: 625 Pacific St., Monterey
  • County of Monterey Seaside Library: 550 Harcourt Ave., Seaside
  • County of Monterey Carmel Valley Library: 65 W. Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel 
  • County of Monterey Buena Vista Library: 18250 Tara Dr, Salinas

Most area power outages are projected to be fixed by Thursday or Friday. You can check outage status via the PG&E website.

Rob O’Keefe with See Monterey said hotel general managers, anecdotally, have been seeing hundreds of area residents take refuge in hotels.

“That's the number of residents they're seeing coming in and taking shelter, due to loss of ability to get to their home, or loss of power, or both,” he said during a press briefing Wednesday.

Fallen trees still blocking roads, posing hazards 

George Nunez, CalFIRE unit chief for the San Benito-Monterey unit, said at the briefing that crews have been working with local agencies to clear power lines and downed trees from roads.

In Pebble Beach, there are 77 blocked-off roads they’re working on. The area was one of the hardest-hit by the storm, with the sheriff’s office issuing a shelter-in-place order for the area Sunday through Monday.

“PG&E is planning on working the rest of the weekend into the next week to ensure the power gets back on,” Nunez said.

At one point, he added, there were over 280 calls for downed trees. None of those felled trees caused major injuries or fatalities in Monterey County, Nunez said.

In Santa Cruz County, trees knocked down by the storm killed a Boulder Creek man, 45-year-old Robert Brainerd III.

Randy Ishii, Monterey County’s director of public works, said the county has made Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca a temporary staging area for PG&E crews and equipment while they work to repair storm damage.

“As we continue these damage assessments, we encourage the public to continue checking on the road conditions by checking the road closure information page [that] has been kept up to date by the county for county roads,” he said.

That information is on the county’s website. Santa Cruz County also has road closure information posted on its county page.

Homeowners and renters who have suffered storm damage to their homes can call the Red Cross 24-hour dispatch line at 866-272-2237.

In Monterey County, officials have developed the following guidance:

  • Downed trees may be removed without a permit. Photos should be taken of the downed tree(s) as documentation.
  • For leaning or standing dead trees that are clearly hazardous, same-day approval of permits will be granted with required photo documentation.
  • If there is an immediate threat that cannot wait for permits, permits can be obtained after the tree is removed, but photographic evidence showing the immediate hazard created by the tree(s) will be required as part of review of permitting after the fact.
  • For trees that are not clearly dead or leaning, the normal tree removal permit process will apply.

Contact the Monterey County Permit Center by calling 831-755-5025 or emailing hcdpermits@co.monterey.ca.us.

Correction: The audio version of this story that aired the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024 had an incorrect pronunciation of CalFire BEU Captain George Nunez’s name. We apologize for the error and have fixed it in the audio posted to web.

Janelle Salanga is a reporter for KAZU. Prior to joining the station, they covered Sacramento communities and helped start the SacramenKnow newsletter at CapRadio.
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