Napa County and the North Bay are again facing the prospect of a Pacific Gas and Electric safety power shutdown at mid-week, two weeks after an earlier event cut off electricity to 32,000 Napa County customers for two or more days.
Starting late Wednesday evening, PG&E may turn off the power to 9,623 Napa County customers, significantly fewer than two weeks ago, the utility announced late Monday afternoon.
This overview map shows potential shutoffs in western Browns Valley and the Linda Vista area in northwest Napa, as well as St. Helena, Calistoga, Deer Park, Pope Valley and Lake Berryessa areas. Portions of central Napa affected earlier this month are shown as exempt.
The shutoffs are planned to start at various times for 209,000 customers across 15 counties in the North Bay, Northern California and the Sierra Foothills starting Wednesday evening.
Customers are being notified via text, email and automated phone calls which began Monday afternoon, PG&E said.
PG&E said the North Bay counties may experience wind gusts of 35 to 45 mph, with gusts of 55 mph in some spots between late Wednesday evening through Thursday afternoon
On Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a Fire Weather Watch for the North Bay mountains starting Wednesday afternoon and running through Thursday afternoon.
The windy, dry conditions will create “critical fire weather conditions,” the Weather Service said.
This power shutoff would be significantly smaller in scope and impact than the mid-October event that left 738,000 customers in Northern and Central California in the dark for two to three days, PG&E said.
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That shutoff, unprecedented in scale, created economic losses for businesses that were forced to close and households that lost perishables, while disrupting the daily lives of households and communities.
Afterward, Napa County officials criticized the utility, questioning the length of the shutoff and the process for determining who lost power and who didn’t.
PG&E did its own postmortem, saying in newspaper ads that the shutoff had resulted in “zero catastrophic fires” in its service area although winds had exceeded 50 mph in 15 counties, including 77 mph in Sonoma County.
These safety shutoffs are the result of catastrophic fires in the North Bay in 2017 and in Butte County in 2018 that resulted in huge claims against the utility, driving PG&E into bankruptcy. Many of the fires were the result of lines that were knocked over in high winds.
Before restoring power in shutoffs earlier this month, crews found more than 100 instances of damage and hazards to de-energized lines due to strong winds, PG&E said.
Portions of counties that may be impacted by a potential power shutoff this week include Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Sierra, Sonoma, Sutter and Yuba.
As part of preparedness efforts, PG&E is asking customers to:
- Update your contact information at www.pge.com/mywildfirealerts or by calling 1-866-743-6589 during normal business hours. PG&E will use this information to alert customers through automated calls, texts, and emails, when possible, prior to, and during, a power shutoff.
- Plan for medical needs like medications that require refrigeration or devices that need power.
- Identify back-up charging methods for phones and keep hard copies of emergency numbers.
- Build or restock your emergency kit with flashlights, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.
- Keep in mind family members who are elderly, younger children and pets. Information and tips including a safety plan checklist are available at pge.com/wildfiresafety.
Additional tips on the safe use of generators can be found at PG&E’s Safety Action Center at www.safetyactioncenter.pge.com