SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Pacific Gas and Electric is planning to shut off power for thousands of customers in all but two Bay Area counties due critical fire danger conditions, utility officials confirmed Tuesday.
Some 54,000 customers in 24 counties across California will be impacted.
In Northern California, areas that could be without power, starting Wednesday evening, include parts of the North Bay mountains, the Mount Diablo area, the East Bay hills and Santa Cruz mountains.
The utility says this latest Public Safety Power Shutoff is due to low humidity levels, winds, the National Weather Service’s Red Flag warning, combined with the dry fuel and live vegetation on the ground.
PG&E is shutting off power to prevent their equipment from igniting wildfires. The utility has set up a base camp between St. Helena and Calistoga. It has all the equipment to restore service once the fire danger passes or the crews needed to respond to power and gas outages if another major fire ignites.
— PG&E (@PGE4Me) October 14, 2020
Bay Area counties that could see power shutoffs include Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma. Residents can determine whether they will be affected by looking up their address on the PG&E alerts website.
Marin and San Francisco counties are the only Bay Area counties not affected by the warning.
At a press conference Tuesday evening, PG&E officials showed reporters a color-coded map, indicating a large area of customers in the Sierra and North Bay that could be shut off by 6 p.m., Wednesday. Some 33,000 customers will be affected.
As of Monday evening, only 21 counties and around 50,000 customers were expected to be affected by the power shutoff.
More than 11,000 customers in Napa and Sonoma counties are likely to be affected by the power shutoff as both counties continue dealing with the Glass Fire, which was 97 percent contained as of Wednesday morning and had burned more than 67,000 acres in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties.
As for homes and businesses in the East Bay and the South Bay, the anticipated start time is 8 p.m., impacting 23,000 customers.
The Red Flag warning is in effect through 11 a.m. Friday and covers the North Bay and East Bay interior valleys, along with the higher elevations.
“Winds will begin to increase early Wednesday morning, especially over Napa County, but also farther south into the Diablo Range. Significantly stronger and gustier winds will develop and become more widespread in the hills Wednesday evening and peak overnight Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, then diminish during the day on Thursday,” the Weather Service said in a statement.
PG&E says it plans to restore power by 10 p.m. on Friday, safety permitting.
PG&E says it has tried to reduce the impact of the PSPS to only a small area of the affected communities.
Mark Quinlan, PG&E’s Incident Commander says, “They’ve been around for a number of years but our intent this year was to make them as small as we can make them as short as possible and make them as smart for our customers.”
The utility is promising regular updates for the customers affected during the PSPS event. Additional information is available on the utility’s website.
Going dark is not the only concern for many communities in the North Bay. For Calistoga residents who just returned to their homes after the Glass Fire, their fear is another fire.
“I just want to live a normal life. I just can’t. There is so much chaos going on,” said Calistoga resident Andrew Carillo.
His friend Chris Leon adds, “It’s the new normal. You’ve got be ready really.”
The two life long Calistoga residents are thinking they might have to leave their homes for the second time this year.
“I was evacuated. I was staying in a hotel in Bakersfield because everything in Napa was booked. I had nowhere to go. I had my wife and two kids. Where do we go, you know?” said Leon.
According to PG&E, it is using temporary generators to provide power to roughly 1,500 customers to the downtown Calistoga area and it has a similar microgrid in the Angwin area.
The hope in downtown Calistoga though is that the winds stay relatively calm and PG&E won’t have to initiate the PSPS. Businesses have had enough disruptions in 2020.
Alex Dierkhising is a business owner in downtown Calistoga for nearly 45 years.
“The fires, the COVID. It’s just been way it’s been up and down,” says Dierkhising.
Gary Huff, a Calistoga resident says, “It’s climate change; that’s the war. We don’t have enough firefighters.”