How are things in Santa Cruz? Thanks for asking.
The ongoing COVID health crisis was augmented two weeks ago by extremely hot weather that kicked off sudden county-wide power blackouts.
While we were coping with the unusual heat, and worrying about whether more blackouts would come, Santa Cruz County had a pre-dawn lightning storm of terrific force on August 16th. Hundreds of lightning strikes dotted our county, from over the bay to our inland forested mountains. It was beautiful and scary.
We were, it turned out, right to be scared because the lightning set off a number of fires deep in wooded areas. The fires quickly spread in the hot, dry weather and 77,000 people were evacuated as tens of thousands of square acres burned out of control over the next couple of days.
The lightning storms hadn’t just hit Santa Cruz County. The rest of California suffered, too. Fires were started up and down the state — over 600 wildfires in all. It was impossible to address so many fires at once. The state’s resources were stretched thin. As the fires spread, residents were forced to leave their homes.
Evacuees included several Cruzio staffers, and hundreds of our customers. And it appears that some members of the Cruzio community lost their homes.
Those of us who remained in the unevacuated parts of Santa Cruz breathed air full of ash particles, and our homes smelled like smoke. Friends and family from the mountains are still sleeping on our couches, and we have our go-bags ready in case the wind takes a bad turn and we all have to — as the official notices put it — “get out.”
Through all this, we’ve still had to maintain social-distancing, mask-wearing, and generally care due to the pandemic.
So that’s how this month is going.
At Cruzio, we’re constantly reminded, during difficult times, how vital internet service is. Times of crisis raise the need. We had to anticipate damage from the fire and figure out how to prevent damage to our infrastructure. We knew people needed to pore over fire maps and get notices via email.
This means that all Cruzio staff were on alert this week, some losing days of sleep as we monitored and reacted to searing heat, power outages, and fire. Our staff lives here — as do our customers — and we’re fiercely dedicated to successful and safe outcomes for our community. We may suffer glitches and partial outages when the situation becomes overwhelming, but we are not complacent. We fight tooth and nail to keep our services running.
We don’t have to look far for inspiration. The firefighters battling this new and impossible complex of blazes are our heroes and we’re doing whatever we can to help them, as well as people who’ve gone to local shelters, and all those working in the systems which have to kick into place at times like these. Cruzio’s backbone connections are supporting the Santa Cruz Civic and Watsonville Fairgrounds evacuation sites. We’ve provided cameras for fire watch sites. We’ve reached out to government offices all over the county: what can Cruzio do to help?
Meanwhile we’re supporting our staff as best we can. We won’t put them in perilous situations. We try to help those who’ve been evacuated from their homes. Cruzio is focused on keeping internet running, which is a big job, while understanding that we, too, are humans who need a place to sleep.
As the days tick by, Cruzio is ready to help. A team like ours is part of a strong, resilient community, and we are working with organizations around the county to maintain communication services and help people find answers and find each other. We put our staff’s names at the bottom of every newsletter — we’re proud of their work, especially now, especially this month.
Stay safe, Santa Cruz. Stay strong, it’s up to us to get our neighbors through this tough time.