SAN FRANCISCO — Since Sunday, Pacific Gas and Electric’s emergency operations center has been monitoring a dry, offshore wind event. On Monday afternoon, the company began issuing 48-hour advance notifications to customers that it may be proactively turning power off beginning late Wednesday evening.
The potential public safety power shutoff is planned for varying start times depending on location, and is expected to affect approximately 209,000 customers.
The shutoffs may affect portions of 15 counties in the Sierra Foothills and the North Bay: Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Sierra, Sonoma, Sutter and Yuba.
Though San Joaquin County was included on the initial list released by PG&E, it was removed as the scope of the potential outages narrowed, according to a news release from the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services.
“San Joaquin County is no longer on the list of potentially affected counties at this time,” the release stated.
However, the county office will continue working with PG&E on this and future wind events.
Customers who were expected to be affected were notified via text, email and automated phone call beginning Monday afternoon, approximately 48 hours prior to the potential de-energization. Customers enrolled in the company’s Medical Baseline program who do not verify that they have received these important safety communications will be individually visited by a PG&E employee when possible.
Windy conditions, like those being forecast later in the week, increase the potential for damage and hazards to the electric infrastructure, which could cause sparks if lines are energized. These conditions also increase the potential for rapid fire spread.
PG&E’s meteorological and operations teams continue to monitor weather models that show potential strong and dry offshore wind gusts that may exceed 55 mph late Wednesday evening through Thursday afternoon for portions of the Sierra Foothills. Gusts of 35 to 45 mph have been forecast for some North Bay counties, with some localized areas expected to experience 55 mph gusts.
“The sole purpose of (public safety power shutoff) is to significantly reduce catastrophic wildfire risk to our customers and communities,” said Michael Lewis, senior vice president of PG&E Electric Operations. “We know that sustained winds above 45 mph are known to cause damage to the lower-voltage distribution system and winds above 50 mph are known to cause damage to higher-voltage transmission equipment. As we saw in the last PSPS event, we had more than 100 instances of serious damage and hazard on our distribution and transmission lines from wind gusts of this strength.”
PG&E is expecting more than 13,000 customers to be affected in Amador County, including in the towns of Pine Grove, Pioneer, Sutter Creek and Plymouth. More than 14,500 customers in Calaveras County could be affected, including San Andreas, Murphys and Valley Springs residents.
Customers wondering if they will be affected can visit www.pge.com.
On Wednesday, PG&E will open community resource centers across the affected areas to provide restrooms, bottled water, electronic-device charging and air-conditioned seating. The centers will be accessible to customers with functional needs and will be staffed from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. until the areas are fully restored to power. Locations will be posted on the event website, accessible via www.pge.com.
While San Joaquin County customers will not be affected in this round of shutoffs, the county Office of Emergency Services urges customers to make sure that their contact information is up-to-date at PG&E. Non-account customers can also sign up for alerts.
San Joaquin County residents should also develop a backup plan, build or restock an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, first aid supplies and cash, and purchase thermometers for fridges and freezers to ensure food safety.
Find out more at www.sjready.org.