Lack of power in North Fork and Madera County forced multiple school closures

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Hundreds of toppled trees and scattered shingles blown off the roofs of downtown businesses are just some of the signs left behind from the strong, gusty wind that knocked out power in North Fork.

"The wind was howling," says Gas 'N' Stuff Manager Cheryl Adams. "The door would open and leaves would come flying in. Things would be flying down the street."

The owner of a gas station and deli says he lost thousands of dollars from the pumps not working and food going bad during the outage. PG&E tells us the wind storm damaged equipment in multiple locations.

We spotted the crew along Road 274, where Calfire confirmed power lines were down at the site of a quarter-acre vegetation fire on Sunday. Outages initially impacted about 4,000 customers in this area.

"It was pretty rough, it was kind of cold," says North Fork resident Robert Segura. "Basically it felt like we were in the dark ages."

The lack of power also forced Chawanakee Unified to cancel classes Monday at eight of its nine schools.

Most teachers reported to the one that remained open, Hillside Elementary, to work on lesson plans while maintenance staff checked on the impacted campuses.

"Custodial and grounds crew are removing some trees off a couple of the campuses," says Chawanakee Superintendent Darren Sylvia. "We lost a few roofs off of some of our ancillary buildings, one being one of our greenhouses and nursery area for the high school."

Sylvia had a refrigerated truck ready to save perishable food items at the schools, but power was restored before it was needed. Still, he says closing campuses is never easy, and he's hoping this won't happen again in the coming months.

"Currently, we've lost up to three school days this year," Sylvia said. "Once we reach five days, then we'll have to start making those days up."

Chawanakee was one of the local school districts affected by the PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs back in October.

The utility says it did not do one of those planned outages for this area this weekend despite the high winds because we did not have the heat and humidity that were part of the equation for increasing the risk of large fires last year.
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