ARVIN, Calif. (KERO) — No calm after the storm for the city of Arvin. 23ABC confirmed with Pacific Gas & Electric that Wednesday's unprecedented thunderstorms caused an outage for more than 6,000 residents. While power has been restored for some thousands remain without this evening.
If you drove down East Bear Mountain Boulevard in Arvin Thursday you probably noticed the street lights were out, and businesses, including grocery stores closed. Pitch black, without power.
Some residents and businesses told 23ABC that they haven’t had power since Wednesday evening around 5 p.m.
“A lot of them that work in the fields, but they have no transportation to go to Bakersfield to buy their meat and produce that they need. They have to prepare their own food," explained Manuel Pantoja, owner of Bear Mountain Pizza. "Today is going to be hard because they don’t have a microwave or anything to prepare their food in the morning. It’s going to affect them a lot.”
Pantoja's business was one of the few that was able to remain open throughout the day.
PG&E confirmed lightning struck a substation near Arvin with the resulting outage impacting about 6,000 customers.
PG&E’s Katie Allen says they acted quickly getting a crew out to work on repairs. While restoring power for a couple of thousand residents by Thursday afternoon PG&E is not expecting full power to return to their Arvin customers until Friday.
“Yesterday, our meteorologists recorded more than 600 [lightning strikes] in Kern County, below 3000 feet. That is an unprecedented storm in Kern that we haven’t seen in years,” she said. “And one of the things we did do was reach out to Arvin Edison Water District and ask them to reduce the electricity to some water pump meters that they have, immediately quickly responded to redirect back to some of our residents to some of our residential customers.”
Pantoja had generators for a food truck, so he was able to restore some power to his home but had to drive all the way to Lamont to get gas for the generator since he says all the stations in town were down. Direct power to his restaurant was eventually restored around 1 a.m.
“We have AC. We have food. They can come here, eat and refresh themselves, and charge their phones as well. We’ll be open as long as people need it.”
And Pantoja is not the only one with a generator to put to good use. City Manager Jeff Jones says Arvin city hall and the police department do too. So they kicked into action at 8 a.m. Thursday getting resources like snacks, water, extra outlets, porta-potties, and movies to keep Arvin residents without power cool and entertained.
“People think the city exists in the background, but now you get to see what a city does in an emergency mode," said Jones. "We have staffers going out there to actually get food, to get water, to get ice. By the way, we’re getting ice for residents to actually come up and get some ice for their refrigerators and freezers.”
Jones says this type of situation is a first for the city. The city council chambers will act as a cooling center through Friday night.
With an outdoor tent, they have a capacity of about 80 people. Jones says the city opening the Arvin Veterans Center to accommodate 200 more people and the Red Cross is coming with cots and other overnight resources.
And that’s where Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez and Arvin Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Boreli partnered with the Community Action Partnership of Kern to distribute food to residents in need at the local veteran's hall.
“This was an act of God, so no finger-pointing. We're just here to show the residents of the city of Arvin that they are loved," said Perez.