SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) – Sonoma and Napa County officials said electric power was fully restored in the county as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, ending PG&E’s planned public safety power shutoff that began 12 hours earlier.
PG&E said Wednesday afternoon that pending the results of inspections, power should be restored Wednesday evening to all its customers that were included in its power shutoff early Wednesday morning.
PG&E shut off power to nearly 1,500 customers in Napa and Sonoma counties early Wednesday morning to reduce the risk for wildfires in advance of a hot and windy forecast, according to PG&E officials.
The power was shut down at about 4:10 a.m. Wednesday, PG&E officials said. The outage map shows areas currently without power stretch from eastern Sonoma County, the west side of Calistoga to the Napa county line and north of Lake Berryessa, approximately 1,460 customers per the PG&E outage website.
The section of Calistoga that is affected by this power shutoff today is the same section that was shut off during last October’s public safety power shutoff.
PG&E later issued a press release stating the PSPS event impacted approximately 48,200 customers across seven counties: Butte, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sonoma and Yuba. The process to turn off power was completed between approximately 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesday morning.
At 4 p.m., PG&E said the safety inspections for areas further north were continuing, but noted that some customers might not have their power restored until Thursday.
#PSPS: Crews have begun safety inspections of equipt. in affected areas (2,785 miles of trans. & dist.lines). Restoration activities can only take place during daylight hours. Some customers may not be restored until Thursday. Thank you for your patience. https://t.co/92ha3cpXyh pic.twitter.com/GzSQrwLGwD
— PG&E (@PGE4Me) September 25, 2019
The outages, part of PG&E’s public safety power shutoff program, are being done in advance of a forecast hot and windy day across the region.
The Arco gas station in Calistoga where Petrified Forest Road and Highway 128 meet was dark Wednesday during what is typically their busiest time of day.
“We lose business, but I guess it’s better [than a fire],” said Arco Manager Rodrigo Caballero.
For the hundreds of people who rely on this stop to fuel up, it was an inconvenience.
“Emphasize more on fire prevention than turning people’s power off. That’s their livelihood,” said Napa resident Michael Spears.
“Our power went out; well, it’s been out. So we needed gas for the generator. Came down and there’s no gas here,” said Santa Rosa resident Carlos Nunez.
The windy weather conditions peaked by noon, which is why inspections began to get the power back on as soon as possible.
“And that’s on foot and in the sky with helicopters. And then we can look to see any damage that was done,” said PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras. “So we need to make those repairs, correct the damage, remove any trees, and then we can start re-energizing those customers.”
Many who lived in Calistoga were concerned for those affected by the head who had little recourse.
“I mean, I think this is the third power outage so far that we’ve had,” said Herb Welch of Rancho de Calistoga mobile home village. “It’s always when it’s the hottest.”
On the northern edge of Calistoga, Wednesday’s blackout turned this small community of senior citizens into a ghost town. The residents were huddled inside in hopes of holding off the afternoon heat as long as possible.
“When we have a blackout like this, it impacts the seniors so badly,” says Sarah Kuster. “I mean they’re stuck in their homes, no generator, no tv. It’s really hard.”
A nurse of 50 years, Sarah Kuster helped deliver food and check on neighbors, many of who, she says, are home bound, unable to escape trailers with no means of staying cool.
“I’ve been to several houses today and it’s like an oven,” Kuster says. “No AC. They can’t get out, they can’t do anything. The rest of us can take off and go to the ocean, but they can’t.”
For large operations, Wednesday was the result of detailed and costly planning
“We kind of had a system in place,” says Keo Hornbostel of Safari West. “I think after the fires, starting to talk to PG&E when they were going to do this plan our outages, it was like we had to have a defined plan.” The Sonoma County safari destination had five generators ready to go, guests may not have even known there was a power outage.
“After the fires, has always been, for the animals and our guests, is to have a safe place to work.” Hornbostel says. “So when you have some sort of an ounce we had last night, we are more than prepared to fire up generators.”
In the meantime, PG&E has opened a community resource center on the Napa fairgrounds, which is a cool option for people to escape the heat.
When KPIX cameras stopped by there was not one person in it. Just a couple miles away, a neighborhood with people that probably could have used some relief.
“You know, I understand the issue with the fires and everything,” Welch says. “But I mean this is a senior community here.”
Contreras announced via Twitter at 12:40 p.m. that there was an additional power outage in west Santa Rosa that was affecting over 5,500 customers. That outage was unplanned and not related to the PSPS.
@PGE_Deanna crews are working safely and as quickly as possible to restore power to approx, 5,563 customers in Santa Rosa. The cause of this outage in west Santa Rosa is being investigated but it is NOT a PSPS. This is an unplanned outage. Thank you for your patience.
— Deanna Contreras (@PGE_Deanna) September 25, 2019
For more information about power shutoffs, the officials recommend people go to https://www.pge.com/en_US/safety/emergency-preparedness/natural-disaster/wildfires/public-safety-power-shutoff-faq.page.
Jackie Ward and Wilson Walker contributed to this report.
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