With Humboldt County’s impending blackout looming, the county Office of Emergency Services is urging residents to stock up on enough medical supplies to last at least a few days and officials are scurrying to set up medical device charging stations throughout the county.
The entirety of Humboldt County is expected to lose power Saturday afternoon and officials say the fire warnings that prompted it could last until Monday afternoon, after which it could take several days for PG&E to inspect and re-energize the lines. During the blackout on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, medical providers said acquiring needed oxygen would have become a real problem
for people on breathing aides had the outage extended beyond 28 hours. As it was, six people were hospitalized with breathing issues, including one who rapidly decompensated and had to be flown out of the area for further treatment.
Transmission lines carry electricity from where it's generated to where it's used.
Broadway Medical Operations Manager Blake Morrow said his office is working to make sure its clients have 72 hours’ worth of oxygen, per OES’ recommendation. He said staff is working with Eureka Oxygen to fill up as many oxygen tanks as possible and will be open from 9 a.m. to noon tomorrow for customers to pick up extra tanks.
However, Morrow warned, if the blackout extends into next week as PG&E is warning, Broadway Medical will run out of oxygen.
A receptionist at Apria Healthcare, meanwhile, said it has enough oxygen for the blackout and has drivers on standby to deliver tanks. A receptionist at Lincare said she was uncertain of plans for next week but that its Eureka branch will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday for patients to come in and exchange empty tanks for full ones. Mad River Community Hospital spokesperson Vicky Sleight said the hospital is not aware of any facilities that will be refilling tanks during the blackout and that anyone having breathing problems can come into the hospitals emergency room to be evaluated.
The city of Arcata has announced it will open an electronic device charging station, with folks with medical devices given priority, at the Arcata Community Center located at 321 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway. It will begin operations early Saturday afternoon and be open until 6 p.m. daily until it’s no longer needed.
Humboldt Bay Fire Community Risk Reduction Specialist Amy Conlin said her department is on standby, ready to open a charging station at its classroom at 3030 L St. in Eureka. A subsequent press release from the city indicated the classroom will be open as a "medical device charging station" from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during the blackout, and that the Eureka Municipal Auditorium will also be open beginning Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for people to charge their cellular devices.
Blue Lake Rancheria, which was perhaps the best prepared entity in the county for the outage earlier this month, using its microgrid to power its gas station and hotel, indicated it would once again be operational and open for the community. Spokesperson Andrea Marvin said in an email to the Journal
that the Play Station 777 gas station will be open — right now there's a $50 maximum purchase per customer to ration fuel, though that may fluctuate depending on supplies — and the place has stocked up on bagged ice (currently a two-bag limit at the convenience store, as the Rancheria wants to ration supplies so there's some available to everyone who comes in). Beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, Marvin said the hotel will also open a community support center, which will feature charging stations, water and some entertainment for kids. The Rancheria will be posting updates on its Facebook page
, Marvin said, adding that two events scheduled for the weekend — Comic Con and Dead Acres — will proceed as planned.
Sleight said Mad River Community Hospital will be open during the power outage for inpatient and emergency services. Additionally, she said the hospital café will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the blackout.
During the 28-hour blackout on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, according to only two local pharmacies remained open: Cloney’s Red Cross Pharmacy on Fifth Street in Eureka and K’ima:w Medical Center in Hoopa. Reached this afternoon, a representative of Cloney’s said its pharmacy on Fifth Street will be open regular business hours Saturday and again on Monday, while its pharmacy in McKinleyville will be open to drive-through patients Saturday and next week. The Hoopa Valley Tribe Office of Emergency Services was not immediately available to speak to whether K’ima:w Medical Center will be open, but a receptionist there indicated it would remain open throughout the outage.
Both College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University have announced their campuses will be closed beginning Saturday at least through Monday, and the Humboldt County Office of Education is keeping a list of school closures here
Editor's note: This post was updated from a previous version to correct the spelling of Blake Morrow's name. The
Journal regrets the error.