SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — With hot, dry and windy conditions forecast later this week, PG&E officials said more public safety power shutoffs were likely in some parts of the Bay Area during the upcoming fire weather watch.
PG&E announced Monday that there would be an outage watch starting Wednesday, October 14 coinciding with the fire weather watch announced by the National Weather Service for Wednesday through Friday morning. Approximately 50,000 customers in parts of 21 different counties were notified on Monday of potential public safety power shutoffs.
Forecasted High Winds & Dry Conditions Mean PG&E May Need to Proactively Turn Off Power for Safety in Targeted Portions of 21 Counties on Wednesday – An estimated 50k customers who might be affected are receiving initial notifications today https://t.co/Yln4QbriBV pic.twitter.com/hDTk83yCsp
— PG&E (@PGE4Me) October 13, 2020
The Bay Area office of the National Weather Service issued the watch for the higher elevations of the Bay Area, as both temperatures and winds were set to rise midweek.
The utility is keeping a close eye on what it calls Zones 3 and 4. Those include parts of the North Bay mountains near Mount St. Helena, parts of the East Bay near Mount Diablo and the Oakland Hills and pockets of the Santa Cruz and Big Sur Mountains.
Counties impacted by the planned PSPS event include Alameda, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Lake, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama and Yuba.
PG&E crews will be aiming to restore power to all customers within 12 daylight hours after the winds die down.
In the nine-county Bay Area, the shutoff is expected to affect about 23,000 customers, PG&E officials said. Unaffected counties in the region include just San Francisco and Marin.
Another 1,100 in Monterey County and 1,700 in Santa Cruz County may be affected as well.
Last month, the utility announced a new policy stating it would provide advance watches and warnings ahead of potentially shutting off power to areas over wildfire risk. More information is available on the PG&E PSPS alerts website.
Weather officials said the watch was being issued for the North Bay Mountains and East Bay Hills, along with the Santa Cruz Mountains above 1,000 feet from 5 a.m. Wednesday through 11 a.m. Friday.
The increased wildfire risk caught the attention of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who discussed it at his Monday briefing on the COVID-19 crisis.
“This is around the peak of what we have experienced the last few years at least of wildfire season. Into October, the Diablo Winds, and Santa Ana Winds, start to present themselves… temperatures, unseasonably hot,” Newsom said at the briefing. “We’re also going to see an increase in winds later this week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, in Northern California in particular.”
On Wednesday, the Weather Service said offshore winds from the north will begin to increase, especially over Napa County and further south into the Diablo range. North to northeast winds from 15 to 30 mph are expected, with gusts up to 40 mph. Higher peaks and ridges could expect gusts of 45 to 50 mph.
“Gusty winds are then expected to become more widespread Wednesday evening and peak in the overnight hours into Thursday morning before subsiding in the afternoon,” the agency said in a statement on Monday. “Another burst of offshore winds is expected again Thursday night, but winds are not anticipated to be as strong as Wednesday night.”
At the same time, the region is expected to again experience unseasonably hot temperatures. In the latter half of the week, inland temperatures are expected to reach well into the 90s, while coastal areas could see highs in the upper 70s and 80s. Meanwhile, humidity levels will drop as low as 10 to 20 percent.
Officials said the strongest winds are expected over the hills of northeastern Napa and Sonoma Counties, which have been hard in recent weeks by first the LNU Lightning Complex fires that started in mid-August and the Glass Fire, which started late last month.
As of Monday, the Glass Fire has burned 67,484 acres and is 95 percent contained. The cause of the fire, which started on September 27, is under investigation.