California As The Canary Of Collapse

David Trammel's picture

This past year, California has been dealing with power outages deliberately done to prevent wild fires. Community leaders, business people and ordinary citizens are getting a preview of the Future in Collapse.

How power shutoffs are changing California's way of life

"Joe Fatula left the Bay Area in 2017 wanting to settle down in the mountains somewhere quiet. He chose Colfax, a small town rich with Gold Country history, and became mayor last year with the goal of boosting business on Main Street.

But his sanctuary turned apocalyptic in October. Every gas station, grocery store and restaurant closed due to massive power shutoffs as part of the state's efforts to avoid a major wildfire. The mayor found himself loaning out his personal pickup truck and RV, which have built-in generators, to the town's 2,000 residents as they scrambled to save food in their refrigerators, charge their phones and find a way to stay warm.

At all levels of government — from state officials to small-town mayors — California leaders are in uncharted territory, and scrambling to adjust their plans and operations to the realities of regular disruption. For now, their only answer to calamitous wildfires is shutting off power to millions of residents in advance, which residents now lament as a man-made disaster. Mike McGuire, the state senator representing the Santa Rosa area devastated by fires in 2017, said California is “the canary in the coal mine" as climate change threatens to upend life across the world."

California really is a bellwether state.
I regularly read Granola Shotgun (Johnny Sanphillipo's blog). He is very sensible.
His most recent post is on living through a fire.
There are loads of pictures.

What I didn't know is not only does the electric company shut off the electricity, they shut off the natural gas too!
Then (he has pix), the gas people have to go through entire neighborhoods, house by house, turning the gas back on safely.
What a huge undertaking.

Teresa from Hershey

David Trammel's picture

That points out the need to have a secondary source of heat for cooking and hot water. Reliance isn't just getting rid of your car for a bicycle, its identifying where you are vulnerable to disruptions like wildfires, earthquakes or just a tree limb falling and knocking your power out.

They shut the electricity off and gas stations can't pump gas. Electricity is out, stores can't operate cash register. No electricity, ATMs don't work.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I'm partial to propane for backup cooking and with the necessary hose/fittings to use with a refillable 5gal/20lb tank. That amount of propane will get you through a month of fairly intensive cooking. I've got a 3 burner unit squirreled away for this purpose as well as a couple of filled tanks. Whether propane or gasoline, the combustion process is not 100% and the partial combustion products of gasoline are less benign than those of propane. For indoor use this is worthy of consideration.

Blueberry's picture

When camping have a 2 burner stove that burns camp fuel (White Gas) and have a converter thing so can burn the little 1 pound propane bottles. Posted a picture on this site in the past some were.

Blueberry's picture

The picture of the Coleman stove using the converter.

I live quite near Colfax, but in a rural zone outside any city services, and experienced a total of 8 full days of power outages in the span of a month. A couple of decline-relevant lessons highlighted: It’s pretty hard to keep one foot in each world. Since the outages were not everywhere, normal life obligations still had to be met; my husband still had to go to work, the kids still had school and homework, and we needed to be supplied for those activities with lunches and clean clothes and clean bodies. All our daily activities at home were harder (washing, flushing, cooking, light, internet access for work and schoolwork), but that wasn’t necessarily the case for the people we were next to when we got to our daily destinations, since their power supply might be unaffected. That’s lesson two: decline is unequally distributed. And guess what? You won’t know in advance which side you’ll find yourself on. Three: preparation and skills really do help. We had camping gear and my son got to use his Boy Scout know-how, while I got to learn how to change the oil in the generator and my daughter got over her fear of manually lighting the gas stove. We will be better prepared for this year’s outages. Oh yes, did you hear? Similar outages are predicted for at least the next TEN YEARS of fire seasons. So that’s lesson four: you may experience a plateau for a while after a rapid decline (we have our power for now, though the financial consequences keep on giving...) but don’t expect to really recover for good. Once something becomes degraded, don’t really expect it to come back fully. Just try to adjust to the new normal.

mountainmoma's picture

Maybe not quite as long as yours. But, yes, quite uneven, and my housing area was out longer than others in this county. The worst loss was communication, cell phones do not work in this area, and alot of people who live up here use their cell phones at home thru the internet ( wi-fi) but the internet was out. I keep a landline, so I had phone service.

I have power outages routinely, but never when it is hot out like the ones this fall ! So, since my house is all electric, I could not use my stove. And, it was too hot to run the woodstove. I used my sun oven and also used my rocket stove, burning sticks.

Because of the unevenness of the outages, you find yourself up here, cooking with sticks and no showers and such while everything is going as usual 20 minutes away in one of the cities nearby, and then other towns and cities are also out.

One day I made split pea dal in the solar oven, and stirred together a quick yeast dough and left it on the counter. Later, when dinner time, I quickly heated up a cast iron pan on the rocket stove, rolled out a few pieces of dough and had naan bread with the dal. ( Kind of surreal going to town after a few days of this to meet someone at a restaraunt.... )

I have put a very large pot on the rocket stove, no problem, so it is a good one to have around in case you need to do community cooking, a solar oven does not cook much at once, but the large stock pot ont eh stove tec will feed a crowd, if it comes to that.

Blueberry's picture

link to a discussion on getting drinking water out of your water heater. Alacrates is our expert on all things plumbing. When camping 1-2 gallons (4-8L) water per day per person sorry no shower or flush toilet.