Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

PG&E may shut off power to tens of thousands of its customers Monday

  • Updated

PG&E is notifying tens of thousands of customers that it may shut off their power Monday due to potentially dry, windy conditions that could create an increased fire risk.

The utility announced Saturday that 44,000 customers in parts of 32 counties - including Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties - may lose electricity Monday. PG&E is sending these customers two-day notices. Seven tribes also may be affected.

According to PG&E, its meteorologists are monitoring a potential weather system that could bring dry, gusty offshore winds to parts of the northern, central and southern regions of the company's service area beginning Monday morning. The potential weather system combined with extreme to exceptional drought and extremely dry vegetation, could pose an increased fire risk, PG&E said.

Despite the potential for rain in some areas this weekend, PG&E is notifying customers of the possible outage, described by the utility as a Public Safety Power Shutoff, in case it doesn't rain or forecasted wind speeds still pose a wildfire risk.

The potential Monday morning shutoffs could begin in portions of the North Valley, Sacramento, and San Joaquin Foothills. Potential shutoffs for the Northern Sierra Foothills, North Bay, North Coast regions, Bay Area hills and the Central Valley could begin Monday evening, depending on the timing of the wind event, the utility said.

Notifications via text, email and automated phone call began Saturday, the utility said.

Customers can also look up their address online to find out if their location is being monitored for the potential safety shutoff at pge.com/pspsupdates. This emergency website is now available in 16 languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Russian, Vietnamese, Korean, Farsi, Arabic, Hmong, Khmer, Punjabi, Japanese, Thai, Portuguese, and Hindi.

"Many counties will only have small portions of expected outages, some fewer than 100 customers," the utility said in a news release. PG&E also noted that conditions could change.

Solano County is the Bay Area county with the most customers who could be affected by the outages, according to PG&E. In Solano County, 4,559 customers and 423 Medical Baseline customers could be affected.

In Napa County, 2,207 customers and 107 Medical Baseline customers could be affected. The utility said 601 customers and 40 Medical Baseline customers could be affected in Contra Costa County, while 134 customers and 10 Medical Baseline customers could be affected in Alameda County.

The utility said 87 customers in Sonoma and one Medical Baseline customer could be affected.

PG&E activated its Emergency Operations Center on Friday to support the potential weather event.

If customers enrolled in the company's Medical Baseline program do not verify that they have received notices, PG&E employees will conduct individual, in-person visits, the utility said.

In August of this year, PG&E faced questions and criticism about its power shutoff policies during a public briefing with the California Public Utilities Commission.

The briefing was the third in a series of meetings with California electricity companies to discuss their efforts to reduce the frequency and impact of the PSPS events.

Throughout the briefing, CPUC President Marybel Batjer pressed PG&E's senior vice president and chief risk officer Sumeet Singh on specifics of PG&E's work to limit the number and scope of PSPS events, stressing the commission's position that shutting off energy to customers should be an absolute last result.

"Unlike other mitigation strategies, these PSPS events have very real and very direct impacts to customers. It is trading individual risk to customers for reducing wildfire risk," she said. "At risk in a PSPS event are people's lives and their livelihoods."

One of PG&E's measures for the shutoffs, Singh told the group, is updated guidance for when to resort to a PSPS event and new machine modeling. Previously, PG&E based their PSPS decision-making on the likelihood of a large fire happening due to factors like wind speed, low humidity and nearby dry fuel.

The updated modeling incorporates historical weather data and local outage trends to determine the likelihood of igniting a catastrophic fire. It also allows the utility to determine the likelihood that trees nearby will fall over on to power lines, potentially causing a fire.

In April, a federal judge overseeing PG&E's criminal probation recommended the utility do exactly that -- to take into account what PG&E now calls their "tree overstrike criteria" when deciding whether to schedule a PSPS event. According to Singh, the new criteria would have reduced the number of PSPS events occurring between 2017 and 2019, though the number of events in 2020 would have stayed the same.

The utility was placed on probation in 2016 after a federal court found that PG&E neglected to keep accurate and complete records or address potential threats in its natural gas pipelines leading up to a 2010 fatal gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

The central Chinese city of Zhengzhou was flooded-out by a record-shattering amount of rainfall on Wednesday.  More than 24 inches of rain fell in the city in a 24-hour timespan.  Eight inches of that rain fell in just one hour. Rescue crews worked frantically to save motorists from the flooded streets. The floodwaters submerged a school.  Children were floated out of the school in plastic bins. The city's underground subway system was overrun with water.   The flood waters were waist-deep in some areas.  Commuters who were stuck in the flooded subway trains stood on seats to save themselves.  A dozen people drowned. In neighboring India, heavy downpours flooded city streets.  Several days of rain in the region caused a massive mudslide near Mumbai.  At least 31 people were killed in the mudslide. In the western United States, an unrelenting drought has caused significant wildfire risks.  Large wildfires destroyed houses as they spread.  "I really don't know what else to say about this, we've lost everything."The 79 active wildfires in the country have burnt nearly 1.5 million acres.Oregon's Bootleg fire is now the third largest in the state's history.  Thousands of firefighters and emergency personnel work around the clock to fight the blazes.  A change in the weather pattern helped to calm the winds which gave fire crews the chance to control the fires. The Tamarack fire jumped across the California border into neighboring Nevada.  Officials ordered new evacuations.   Derek Rickford fled from his house as the fire approached from three different sides. "We've had fire approach from three directions and they've stopped it within about a quarter mile in each of the three directions."California power company, Pacific Gas and Electric, announced it will bury 10,000 miles of its electric lines.  It will cost the company up to $30 billion to complete the project.   PG&E made the announcement after admitting its equipment may have ignited one of the large fires. 

Copyright © 2021 Bay City News, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication, rebroadcast or redistribution without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. Bay City News is a 24/7 news service covering the greater Bay Area.

Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News