Pacific Gas & Electric implemented its first power shutoff of 2020 on Tuesday morning, leaving 5,028 customers in Napa County in the dark.
For many Calistoga residents, the outage was brief as PG&E generators kicked in to power the majority of the town. For the other parts of the county, the power probably won’t be back until Wednesday afternoon.
Impacted areas include Deer Park, Angwin, Calistoga, Aetna Springs, Berryessa Estates, the eastern slopes above St. Helena, and parts of Pope Valley, the utility said.
The cities of Napa, American Canyon, Yountville and St. Helena were not affected.
This power shutoff was ordered because of the high winds predicted through Wednesday morning in higher elevations, creating critical fire weather, the utility said.
Napa residents endured severe heat over the Labor Day weekend, with the temperature hitting 110 degrees on Sunday and 111 degrees on Monday, the National Weather Service reported.
Monday’s high was an all-time record for the month of September in the city of Napa, the Weather Service said. It broke a September record of 110 degrees set in 1904 and tied on Sunday.
Temperatures were expected to moderate, with a Napa high of 98 degrees forecast for Tuesday and 87 degrees for Wednesday. Smoky conditions prevailed over the Napa Valley Tuesday due to fires in Mendocino County, but air quality was expected to improve on Wednesday, the Weather Service said.
The power shutoff affected approximately 172,000 customers in 20 counties in addition to Napa: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mariposa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne and Yuba.
In Sonoma County, about 17,600 customers were cut off in Santa Rosa and in unincorporated areas.
The process to turn off power to these counties was completed between approximately 9 p.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday, the utility said.
PG&E just last week installed new generators in Calistoga to replace those used during last year’s power shutoffs, but they were not needed for this shutoff, said PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras.
“The temporary microgrid in Calistoga was ready, but was out of operational scope for this PSPS event because the Calistoga Substation remained energized, which is the normal source of power for Calistoga,” she said.
However, certain residents and businesses did experience an outage between 10:15 a.m. and about 1:30 p.m., which affected an area that included businesses downtown on Lincoln Avenue, and neighborhoods around Washington Street. Between the heat, no power, and not knowing when power might be restored, many businesses closed for the day.
This outage was due to “a squirrel climbing into the wires,” Contreras said.
Other Calistoga neighborhoods lost power about 3:15 a.m., and it was restored at about 8:15 a.m.
The National Weather Service placed most of Northern and Southern California, including 1.5 million PG&E customers, under red flag warnings for fire danger.
Forecasts indicate that the peak period of stronger winds should end Wednesday morning.
Once the winds subside and it is safe to do so, PG&E crews will begin patrolling power lines, repairing damaged equipment and restoring customers. In the area impacted by the power shutoff, PG&E will need to conduct safety inspections of 10,625 miles of transmission and distribution lines, PG&E said in a news release.
Restoration activities can take place only during daylight hours, so it’s likely that some customers may not be restored until 9 p.m. Wednesday, the utility said.
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Cynthia Sweeney, editor of The Weekly Calistogan, contributed to this story.
Bay City News Service
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