PG&E generators

PG&E workers were busy Wednesday installing portable generators at a Calistoga substation. This added power supply is being added as the utility warns locals of a possible pereemptory power shutoff Thursday due to a heightened wildfire risk. 

CALISTOGA — Pacific Gas and Electric Company is notifying customers in nine Northern California counties it may turn off power starting Thursday to reduce the risk of a wildfire amid hot and windy weather.

But unlike the first preemptive shutoff in October, this one may not impact the city of Calistoga where merchants complained of thousands of dollars’ worth of lost merchandise and business over two days without power.

A PG&E crew was busy installing major generators Wednesday at a substation on Highway 29 next to Laura Michael Wines. These generators will be able to supply electricity to nearly all of Calistoga if the substation, which is served by transmission lines from Lake County, has to be shut down, PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said Wednesday afternoon.

PG&E is trying to resolve a “unique situation” where an entire town, lying in a low fire-risk area, is served by lines running through a high-risk area, Contreras said.

On Oct. 14, the entire town lost power when PG&E de-energized the transmission lines in Lake County as a way to reduce the risks of wildfires in high-wind conditions.

On Nov. 1, Canning and other Napa County officials met privately with PG&E representatives to voice their displeasure about how things went during the Oct. 14 shutdown.

Many residents and businesses complained that many of them did not get timely advance notices of the power cut-offs. Some questioned why the city, located on the valley floor, was de-energized along with the surrounding wildlands.

“We made it very clear what needs to be done” and “apparently we made an impression,” Canning said Wednesday.

The new portable generators in Calistoga should be able to supply electricity to the entire town, but not 130 customers in outlying areas, Contreras said.

Canning said he expected more information to come out at a community meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday with PG&E officials at the Calistoga High School on Lake Street.

PG&E said the planned outages would affect portions of Napa, Butte, Lake, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sierra, Sonoma and Yuba counties. In Napa County, affected areas included Angwin, Pope Valley and rural parts outside St. Helena.

The National Weather Service says warm temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds are forecast for those areas from Wednesday night to Friday morning.

PG&E says the notices to about 70,000 customers, including those in Napa County, are being sent via automated voice, text messages and emails.

The utility began notifying affected Napa County residents Tuesday evening, Contreras said Wednesday morning.

The utility says is working closely with first responders and local authorities and keeping them informed on its response to the warming weather.

The decision on where to cut off power during the forecast period of high winds on Mount St. Helena and other hills will be made in consultation with meteorologists, Contreras said.

Customers should make sure their contact information is up to date by visiting pge.com/mywildfirealerts, or by calling 1-866-743-6589 during normal business hours. Report downed power lines immediately by calling 911.

Customers can learn whether their home or business is in or near a high fire-threat area by reviewing the California Public Utilities Commission’s High Fire-Threat District map. For more information on how to prepare, customers should visit pge.com/wildfiresafety" target="_blank">pge.com/wildfiresafety or call 1-800-PGE-5002. They can also visit pge.com/wildfiresafety to determine whether their home or business is served by an electric line that may be turned off for safety.

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You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at csweeney@weeklycalistogan.com or 942-4035.

Register reporter Courtney Teague contributed to this story.


The Weekly Calistogan Editor

Cynthia Sweeney has been editor of The Weekly Calistogan since July, 2018. Previously, she was a reporter for the St. Helena Star, and North Bay Business Journal. She also spent a significant amount of time freelancing in Hawaii.