Chill Descends Over the Bay ~POWER WOES~ : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Chill Descends Over the Bay Homeless huddle on the streets

Jonathan Curiel, Eric Brazil, Chronicle Staff Writers

Wrapped in a blanket and huddled next to two friends who are also homeless, Nora Reed looked out from her Market Street encampment this morning and said she was happy to be alive.

"It was cold last night," said Reed, 35. "I survive the best way I can."

Overnight temperatures hovered near freezing and today's weather continued to chill anyone outdoors, the day after snow fell on parts of the Bay Area and shut roads and schools.

The cold was being blamed for the death of a homeless man in Oakland whose body was found underneath a freeway overpass at Fifth and Oak streets yesterday afternoon. This morning, the man's name was being withheld pending notification of any family. The man was in his 50s.

"My feeling is that (the weather probably did" contribute to his death, said Dan Apperson, supervisor in the Alameda County Coroner's office.

At 11 a.m., Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crews were still struggling to restore power to thousands of homes in Nevada and Butte counties, which were hardest hit in the storms that felled trees and knocked branches across power lines.


In Nevada County, 2,900 customers remained without power this morning, said PG&E spokeswoman Lisa Randle. In the Paradise-Stirling City area of northern Butte County, between 1,500 and 3,000 customers had no power. When the storms were at their peak, 30,000 customers were left without power, Randle said.

PG&E has brought in about 150 extra workers from around the state to restore power in the two afflicted counties. Some power failures in remote areas are likely to continue through tomorrow, Randle said.

In Nevada City and Grass Valley, public schools remained closed for the second day today because of heavy snow on the rural routes used by district school buses.

In Yosemite Valley, a crew went to work at first light with dynamite, bulldozers, jackhammers, front loaders and shovels to remove a 200-foot-long rock slide that, since early yesterday, has blocked Highway 140 at the park's entrance. The National Park Service said the road would be open late today.

Because California residents are using more electricity to heat their homes during the cold snap, state energy officials are monitoring the overtaxed energy grid with extra caution. California remained in a Stage 3 power alert today, when an unexpected spike in demand for electricity could set off rolling blackouts.


Today's anticipated peak use is 31,791 megawatts, said Lisa Szot, spokeswoman for the Independent System Operator, which manages the state's power grid. Yesterday's power demand was 30,500 megawatts.

The testy weather will last all week, with clouds hanging around through Saturday, when they may drench the Bay Area with rain, said Diana Henderson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, who noted that January and February tend to be the wettest months of the year.

Wind advisories were in effect near Napa this morning, while the Coast Guard warned small boats to stay away from the choppy Pacific Ocean waters near Mendocino. The California Highway Patrol said there were no weather- related accidents this morning.


"I guess it was the calm after the storm," said CHP officer Levy Barnes. "Let's hope it stays that way."

For homeless people like Reed and Larry Lattimore, the bad weather makes it even more difficult to get through the day. Reed and Lattimore share a shopping cart to move their possessions around San Francisco. Usually, they sleep in the doorways of businesses near Fifth and Market streets, unless they are rousted by police or shopkeepers.

Reed, who was born and raised in Pittsburg, says she knows four homeless people who have died on the streets in the past month. Reed says she drinks alcohol to stay warm; liquor bottles were found near the homeless man in Oakland who was declared dead.

"The bottles could be very old, or they could be fresh," Apperson said. "We're certainly looking into that."

Despite the cold, Lattimore said he prefers the streets to residential hotels, which charge hundreds of dollars a month.

"I'm not going to move into a roach hotel," he said. "It's cold out here, but I don't have roaches."

E-mail Jonathan Curiel at and Eric Brazil at

-- Tess (, February 13, 2001

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