As Pacific Gas and Electric Company crews worked to restore power to residents of Napa County and elsewhere in Northern California, meteorologists monitored what could be the strongest offshore winds in years.
PG&E announced in a Thursday evening press conference that the North Bay was among several regions expected to lose power in a shutoff similar in scope to the Oct. 9 incident that left an estimated 2 million Californians and three-quarters of Napa County in the dark as PG&E sought to avoid sparking wildfire during a period of windy and dry weather. Strong winds will likely start Saturday night and continue into Monday, said Scott Strenfel, PG&E's chief meteorologist.
Higher elevations are expected to see wind gusts from 40 to 60 mph, with peak gusts at 70 to 80 mph or higher, he said. Such winds are estimated to come once in 15 years.
"This (weather) event will be a very serious event, one that we need to be paying very close attention to," Strenfel said.
PG&E told Napa County officials that the 7,000 local customers who lost power Wednesday afternoon due to predictions of stiff overnight winds will see their lights turned back by Friday evening. Utility inspectors were given the go-ahead to survey power lines and make repairs, if necessary, early Thursday afternoon, said Napa County spokesperson Noel Brinkerhoff.
PG&E told the county it would inspect lines until dark Thursday and continue Friday morning as needed, Brinkerhoff said.
More than 5,800 on-the-ground workers and 42 helicopters have been deployed in restoration efforts Thursday, PG&E said.
Some customers who will be restored Thursday and Friday could again go dark over the weekend, PG&E said. Households should prepare by fully charging their electronic devices beforehand, the utility advises.
The Weather Service noted that the Kincade fire near Geyserville in Sonoma County started Wednesday night during sustained winds of 53 mph and gusts of 76 mph in the area.
PG&E said during the Thursday evening press conference that they had found a transmission line outage in the area of the fire that was not among the lines purposefully de-energized, said Bill Johnson, CEO of PG&E. The utility did not forecast wind speeds that would have otherwise prompted a shutoff in the area.
PG&E is complying with Cal Fire investigators, he said.
PG&E has a new policy this year of cutting off power to prevent catastrophic wildfires like those that devastated the North Bay and Northern California in 2017 and 2018.
The Weather Service said temperatures would slowly return to near normal by Sunday. The winds expected this weekend will affect not only the higher elevations but the valleys, with the possibility of some wind damage, forecasters said.