Updated at 7:25 p.m. — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. turned off the power to 16,820 Napa County customers Tuesday morning in preparation for the return of stiff offshore winds that heighten the danger of wildfires.
Some of the customers facing another couple of days without electricity were already in the dark from Saturday night’s safety cutoffs and had not yet had their power restored.
The new round of PG&E shutoffs — the third within a week — affected Napa County customers in Napa, American Canyon, Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Pope Valley and Rutherford. Later, Napa County's Office of Emergency Services announced the restoration of service for American Canyon residents in a Nixle alert shortly after 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Calistoga remains under an evacuation advisory as the Kincade Fire continues to expand in Sonoma County. As of 7:12 p.m.Tuesday, the fire continued to burn near Healdsburg in northeastern Sonoma County, having spread to 76,138 acres (nearly 119 square miles) with 15 percent containment, according to CalFire.
Despite the return of potentially fire-feeding wind gusts, their direction so far has posed no increase in the threat to Calistoga since the town received an evacuation advisory on Sunday, according to Kerry John Whitney of the Napa County Office of Emergency Services.
“There’s no impact fire-wise to the county at this point,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s been better in Calistoga today because of how the winds shifted. We’re not aware of any immediate fire threat in Napa County whatsoever.”
Wind-blown smoke from the Sonoma County fire led the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to extend a Spare the Air alert into Wednesday for Napa County and the rest of the region, meaning that air pollution may be at unhealthy levels for those with respiratory problems.
Restoration of service from the new shutoffs is expected to begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday, although PG&E has not yet said how long the process will last, the county said. Updates on restoration plans are available at 800-743-5002, and look-ups for the status of specific addresses are available at https://psps.ss.pge.com/.
The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory that started at noon Tuesday and runs through Wednesday at 11 a.m. as winds in the mountains are expected to be 20-35 mph sustained with gusts from 40-65 mph. Gusty winds and very low humidity will allow fires to grow quickly and contribute to extreme fire behavior.
A Red Flag warning remains in effect for all of the North Bay until 11 a.m. Wednesday as combined with the wind, relative humidity during the day is expected to be 8-18 percent and 10-25 percent at night, officials said.
In the North Bay valleys, winds are expected to be 5-15 mph with gusts of 20-35 mph. Relative humidity in the valleys are expected to be 10-30 percent during the day and 25-40 percent at night.
Calistoga announced that all of the city’s public schools will remain closed for the rest of the week, with a goal of reopening campuses on Monday. Classes have been on hold this week because so many staff members live in Sonoma County, where mandatory evacuations are widespread and all school districts have shut down.
At a CalFire news conference Tuesday morning in Santa Rosa, National Weather Service forecaster Ryan Walbrun described “a challenging day” of powerful winds for firefighting crews working near Mount St. Helena outside Calistoga, with wind speeds reaching 30 to 40 mph. While winds could abate after midnight, he added, the ignition risk in wooded areas will remain high with relative humidity levels at just 5 to 15 percent.
North Bay residents can expect gentler winds over the next five to seven days, but the forecast does not include any rain that might quench the wildfire faster, according to Walbrun.
All told, the Tuesday shutoffs affect 596,000 customers in Northern and Central California. This is a smaller number than the 970,000 customers who were turned off over the weekend, PG&E said.
PG&E said that 57% of customers unplugged over the weekend had their power back by Monday evening.
In Napa County, 32% of the 17,878 customers who were disconnected in PG&E’s Saturday shutoff had service restored while the utility continued powering up homes and businesses, the county’s Office of Emergency Services said in a Nixle alert Tuesday morning. However, some customers who have been without electricity since Saturday may not receive service again until the latest outage is cleared.
PG&E has opened community resource centers at the Napa Valley Expo at 575 Third St. in Napa, as well as St. Helena Catholic School at 1255 Oak Ave. A third PG&E center will open Wednesday in the American Canyon community gym at 100 Benton Way, according to Napa County spokesperson Noel Brinkerhoff. All centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Charging stations are available at the American Canyon community gym as well as the Napa County Library at 580 Coombs St., Napa, the Yountville Community Center at 6516 Washington St., and the Lake Berryessa Senior Center at 4380 Spanish Flat Loop Road. Another charging center at Pacific Union College’s Fireside Room, 1 Angwin Ave. in Angwin, will be closed after Tuesday as classes resume at that school, Brinkerhoff said.
The Napa Valley Unified School District will open all campuses in Napa and Yountville on Wednesday. District staff was inspecting schools in American Canyon late Tuesday to determine whether those campuses could reopen as well, according to Mike Pearson, assistant superintendent of operational services.
Napa Valley College said it reopened its Napa Valley campuses for classes on Tuesday.
One of three Napa shelters taking in evacuees escaping the Kincade Fire, at Napa Valley College’s main campus on Highway 221, closed at 11 a.m. Tuesday as classes resumed at the school, according to Celeste Giunta, director of Napa Valley Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD).
Monday night, 61 of a possible 700 evacuees had checked into the Napa Valley Expo, while 19 people arrived at CrossWalk Community Church, which is equipped to shelter 200, according to Brinkerhoff. Both shelters also are accepting small animals.
COAD is requesting that those wanting to assist fire evacuees donate $25 gift cards usable at Target, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Lucky and at gas stations to help people buy exactly the food, clothing, fuel and supplies they need, Giunta said.
Gift cards may be donated at the CrossWalk Community Church, 2590 First St. in Napa, preferably between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. In-kind donations will not be accepted unless the products are new and in their original packaging.