Not a drop to drink
Shelves normally filled with water at Half Moon Bay's Safeway were empty on Wednesday as Coastsiders prepared for life without electricity. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

Throughout the day on Wednesday, as various times for PG&E’s planned power outage came and went, Coastsiders did their level best to carry on. “There is nothing you can do about it,” said Half Moon Bay resident Katie Murdock, as she sipped coffee with a friend on Main Street.

It was a surreal day on the coast. Perfect fall weather topped out at 68 degrees, but fire officials and emergency managers worried that beautiful fall temperatures hid dangerous underlying conditions. The wind rose slightly throughout the day and was expected to gust to about 30 mph overnight. A red flag warning remained in effect, signifying elevated fire danger across the region.

As a result, the power company repeatedly warned that a planned electricity shutoff was imminent. First, Coastsiders were told to expect a power outage by midnight on Tuesday. Then it was noon on Wednesday. Later, Coastsiders heard it would occur by 1 p.m. When that deadline came and went, the power company told local officials to expect most of the coast to be without power by 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

For area businesses, it was a costly game of wait-and-see. Some, like the Half Moon Bay Brewing Co., announced over social media that they were closing early or not opening at all on Wednesday. Others, like Café Society on Half Moon Bay’s Main Street, tried to carry on.

“We have to play it day by day,” said café owner Harpo Marx. “We’ll lose money. People will lose paychecks and lose their hours.”

Local schools kept parents informed and stayed open throughout the school day on Wednesday. Both Cabrillo Unified and La Honda-Pescadero Unified school systems pledged to remain open throughout the ordeal.

PG&E opened a resource center behind Pasta Moon at 845 Main St. in Half Moon Bay. There, people could get water and charge their electronic devices. The center is set to stay open until power is restored.

Through it all, residents were plagued by changing notifications and, occasionally, poor information from official sources. For instance, a Caltrans spokesman said the Devil’s Slide tunnels would be closed due to the planned power outage. By Wednesday morning, transportation officials said that generators were on their way to power the enormous internal fans so the tunnels could remain open. Later, they acknowledged that wouldn’t be necessary since power to the tunnels comes from the north, where there were no plans for a shutdown. In the end, officials said the tunnels would remain open throughout the shutdown.

The city of Half Moon Bay found itself in much the same predicament as confused residents. Maintenance staff was prepared to place temporary stop signs at signalized intersections and planned to be working into the night. The city set up two phone numbers for residents who had questions about city operations: (650) 477-4963 in English, and (650) 477-4900 in English and Spanish.

Meanwhile, Coastsiders did their best to prepare for an unprecedented event. Gas stations were crowded with lines of cars as drivers looked to top off their tanks before the electric pumps stopped working. Concerned shoppers left some grocery store shelves bare by Wednesday morning.

“I went to the store. It was a madhouse,” said Hope Dante, a resident of Cañada Cove, who returned with cat food and other supplies. “I mean, everybody was nice, but everybody was getting supplies and preparing.”

Staff writers Libby Leyden and Ashlyn Rollins-Koons contributed to this story.

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