Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California’s largest power utility, warned that they would be turning off the power in my county due to high fire danger. Strong, gusty winds and vanishingly low humidity were plaguing the region. Having endured the 2018 fire that burned an entire town of 26,000 people to the ground (which was started by poorly maintained PG&E transmission lines) I was willing to accept the inconvenience. The “red flag warning,” was scheduled to last about 24 hours. I had a generator that could handle principal systems in the house; I thought I was set.
After you wake up in the dark with no power, things go on almost normally for the first few hours. You’ve set LED lanterns in place to tide you over until you get the generator fired up. Once going, the generator powers your router/modem, so you still have internet service. You can deal.
After 8ish hours, however, internet service stops. The nodes that send that service to your home are equipped with back up batteries, but they only last so long. Once those batteries die, you’re offline until power’s restored.
Outside, the whoosh of the winds and the roar of your generator blend with the lesser hum of your neighbors’ gennys to create an eerie soundtrack of things gone wrong: winds out of control, lack of access to tools that allow you to live what you consider a normal life. Generators roar, winds howl, and the news you hear concerns the threat that underlies it all – the threat of fire. Every dark hallway, generator grunt, and dead light switch reminds you that fire threatens. You’re in the dark, awaiting fire.
For a day or two you handle it okay. It’s a gross inconvenience, but you persist. But then the weather forecast changes and the red flag warning extends by another 24 hours at least, and on day three, it becomes too much. You’re in the dark, dreading fire, every abnormal thing around you reminding that it’s just a spark away.
By day four, full-blown depression sets in. It feels as if this perpetual powerlessness – in every sense – will never end. It’s like being forced to pay tribute to a cruel god making a show of its might to demand that you humble yourself before it and confess your insignificance. Elemental wind and fire, you admit, I am no match for you. We are no match for you.
We go through great pains to insulate ourselves from the force and might of this earth. The greatest damage climate change may inflict is removing that luxury, forcing us to face unprotected the might of the earth we’ve tried and failed to tame.
– Leonce Gaiter, Vice President, Content & Strategy