SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — In the wake of high fire danger warnings, Pacific Gas and Electric shut off power in extreme fire-risk areas of six Northern California counties on Sunday night, affecting nearly 42,000 customers.
At around 8:00 p.m., PG&E began shutting off power in select areas of the following counties: Lake County, Sonoma County, Napa County, El Dorado County, Amador County and Calaveras County.
For much of Sunday, Alameda county was also preparing for possible power shut-offs, but they were cleared early Sunday evening.
Several school closures will take place Monday due to the outages, including Woodland Community College, Clear Lake High School, Middletown Unified School District and Knocti Unified School District.
PG&E is prepared to turn off electricity in all or parts of 12 Northern California counties Sunday night into Monday morning, with high wind warnings in effect across the Bay Area. High winds raise the fire danger substantially in areas where vegetation is already painfully dry.
The National Weather Service warned Sunday afternoon that the North Bay likely will be hit Sunday and Monday with its strongest wind gusts since last October, when devastating wildfires swept the region.
PG&E and county officials are contacting customers directly and providing early-warning notification, when and where possible, via automated calls, texts, and e-mails.
In June, Cal Fire announced that the utility’s “electric power and distribution lines, conductors and the failure of power poles”, caused at least a dozen wildfires in six Northern California counties Power shutoffs such as those proposed by PG&E now are done strictly as a last resort during extreme weather conditions, the utility’s statement said.
“The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is PG&E’s top priority. We know how much our customers rely on electric service and would only consider temporarily turning off power in the interest of safety, and as a last resort during extreme weather conditions,” said Kevin Dasso, PG&E’s vice president of electric asset management, in a statement.
“PG&E has a plan. We want our customers to have plans, too.”
In Sonoma County, “We put the wheels in motion immediately and are working diligently to prepare for any potential PG&E power shut downs,” said County Supervisor James Gore. “This would be the first event of its kind in Sonoma County and we are ready for the challenges it may bring.”
Sonoma County’s Emergency Management Division has developed an Electrical System De-energization Response Plan and put it into motion given PG&E’s plan, said Gore, who emphasized the county has no control over whether the power is actually turned off.
Residents should prepare for high fire dangers through Monday. Isolated gusts could reach around 70 mph in the North Bay mountains Sunday night into Monday morning, the weather service said.
The threat of fires also will be high in the East Bay hills, with wind gusts of up to 30 mph. Relative humidity levels in the North and East bays are expected to drop this afternoon to around 10 percent and recover overnight to only around 20 percent. A red flag warning is in effect for the North and East Bay mountains and hills.
“The greatest threat continues to be in the higher elevations of Napa County and Sonoma County, where the driest conditions and strongest winds are likely,” the weather service said in an advisory. “Any fires that start will spread rapidly.”
Wind speeds are forecast to drop slightly on Monday, the weather service said, but mild and dry conditions are expected to persist into the first half of next week.
The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District said it is deploying additional resources including four wildland fire engines and an additional dispatcher at its communications center as a result of the increased danger. It is also increasing staffing for its bulldozer.
“We anticipate these additional resources remaining available in the county at least through Monday morning but are continually reevaluating based on evolving weather conditions,” ConFire said in a news release.
Before PG&E turns anyone’s power back on, they will inspect all of the power lines in the affected areas.
PG&E has been telling some communities that they may not get power back until as late as Tuesday.
To see if your home is affected by the power outages, you can visit their wildfire safety page.
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