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Roads closed, power still out in parts of Sonoma County due to storm

Sanford Road in Santa Rosa.

JOHN BURGESS / PD
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 7:46 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 2:51 p.m.

Leftover storm problems Monday closed two west Sonoma County schools and more than two dozen roads while PG&E crews swarmed areas where customers remained without power.

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By Monday night, repairs had cut the number of customers without power to about 551 countywide, mostly in the west county.

As of 8:35 p.m. Monday, 426 customers were out in Occidental, 62 in Sebastopol, 22 in Cazadero and 11 in Santa Rosa. PG&E said most would have power by this morning.

A new, milder storm began rolling across parts of the North Coast on Monday night, with rain expected throughout today and into Wednesday morning.

Accuweather predicted rainfall would total about an inch in Santa Rosa, far less than the total of 6.44 inches that fell in last week's storms.

During those storms, thousands of people were without power for more than 30 hours, meaning no heat and light in most cases and no water for those on wells.

"It was pretty miserable," said Rose Matthews, whose rural Bennett Valley home was without power from about 5:30 a.m. Sunday to 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Sonoma County suffered the most blackouts in the North Bay from the last of three fierce storms that brought a deluge of rain and gusting winds to much of Northern California.

The storm that raged from Saturday night into Sunday morning left 20,000 county homes and businesses in the dark.

"We're bringing crews up to Sonoma as it was one of the areas hit the hardest," PG&E spokeswoman Brittany McKannay said.

During the three storms, McKannay said, a total of 737,170 PG&E customers in Northern and Central California lost power.

In Mendocino and Lake counties, 448 customers still were without power Monday morning but that dropped to 92 by 8:35 p.m. The bulk had been in Fort Bragg, Philo and Elk.

Near Occidental, officials canceled Monday's classes at Harmony Elementary and Salmon Creek schools because nearly 1,000 area residents were without electricity.

In Bennett Valley, power losses started at about 5:30 a.m. Sunday. The power was back to a large part of the area by about 1 p.m. Monday.

The Bennett Valley Road fire station, powered by a generator during the long blackout, became a beacon for frustrated residents.

"We've had many many residents stop in or call up asking if we knew (about repairs) or if they could plug something in and charge up," such as cellphones, Fire Engineer Patrick Tognozzi said.

One resident brought three roasts to the station, fearing her thawing Christmas feast would be ruined.

"We're keeping it in the fridge for her," Tognazzi said.

"I grew up in this area. It's been many, many years (since) there was a power outage that lasted more than 5 to 10 hours at most. We're going to 30 plus hours now. This is rare," Tognazzi said before most power was restored.

Matthews said the night at her house had been long, cold and brightened only by battery-powered lights. Water availability was limited.

By early afternoon Monday, the noise of a computer booting up gave her the sign she'd been awaiting.

"We're very grateful it's back on," she said.

She said the experience gave her a brief glimpse of what hundreds of thousands of East Coast residents experienced after superstorm Sandy.

"We shouldn't whine," Matthews said.

The storms also caused extensive flooding in low areas but failed to push the Russian River to flood levels.

Standing water, fallen trees and broken power lines kept some roads closed throughout the county Monday.

By afternoon, 11 county-maintained roads still were shut because of the storm's aftermath, including sections of Wohler, Trenton and Sanford roads. Early Monday, 27 roads were reported closed.

Reopening many of the remaining closed roads depended on the availability of PG&E crews to handle downed lines or tree limbs hung up in lines, said Tom O'Kane, the county's deputy director of public works.

PG&E "doesn't want us to be working around their lines," he said, "and they were just swamped with calls."

Staff Writer Brett Wilkison contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

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