NAPA COUNTY (KPIX 5) — Increased fire dangers had PG&E cutting power to thousands in the Bay Area Wednesday, flipping the switch for North Bay customers starting at 6 p.m. with additional outages planned for parts of the East Bay and South Bay later Wednesday night.
Parts of every Bay Area county except for San Francisco and Marin are likely to be impacted by this round of public safety power shutoffs.
During an update early Wednesday evening PG&E estimated that approximately 33,000 customers in Butte, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Yolo and Yuba counties would be having their power shutoff between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The next group of about 19,000 customers that were slated to have their power turned off between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. resided in affected areas of Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Monterey, Nevada, Placer, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Sierra counties.
Both of those groups should have their power restored by Friday evening.
The outages proved to be frustrating for residents in the Napa County community of Calistoga, which has repeatedly been impacted by the shutoffs.
“We were the first. The first city to be subjected to the PG&E’s first PSPS in 2018,” Mayor Chris Canning told KPIX 5.
“Every single time they have done it,” said Calistoga resident Marcella Franco. “I’ve lost count at this point.”
The utility is setting up “microgrids” with temporary generators at various location that will help keep power on for 12,000 customers. Microgrid stations have been set up in Calistoga, which provides power to most downtown businesses, and the Angwin area.
The mayor said, “While we are thankful that we have this generator system, we still can’t let PG&E off the hook. It’s decades of not hardening their systems, not attending to vegetation management.”
Those not on the microgrid still have to deal with the shutoff, just after going through evacuations from the recent Glass Fire.
“I actually came home in Friday after the smoke cleared and everything. So I haven’t even been home a full week yet actually,” said Franco.
Erik Alvarez, another Calistoga resident says, “At this point we are just living out of our suitcases, preparing ourselves.”
Alvarez and his friends were dining al fresco in his driveway in the dark. They have a few candles lit up in their home, but are prepared to be without power until Friday night.
Justin Cruz of Calistoga said, “2020 has been crazy so far. It’s been a rollercoaster, pretty much. I don’t know what to expect next.”
PG&E said on Twitter that they will be opening Community Resource Centers to provide support for those impacted by the shutoffs.
PG&E has Community Resource Centers to support customers impacted by Public Safety Power Shutoffs. Many will open tonight from 5 PM-10 PM. To find a location near you and hours of operation, visit: https://t.co/X1ClEBDDlC pic.twitter.com/f3NuwVn7Si
— PG&E (@PGE4Me) October 15, 2020
Residents can determine whether they will be affected by looking up their address on the PG&E alerts website.
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.
As the National Weather Service has warned for the period of the Red Flag warning through Friday morning, PG&E officials said there are two major wind events forecast for Wednesday night into Thursday morning and Thursday night into Friday morning. Winds are expected to gust up to 55 mph on peaks and ridges in the North Bay, the East Bay hills and the Santa Cruz Mountains.
In addition to the current Red Flag warning, on Wednesday the Bay Area office of the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory that will run from Thursday morning until Friday at 9 p.m.
A Heat Advisory has been issued and is valid from 11am Thurs through 9pm Fri. Hot daytime temperatures and mild to warm overnight lows are forecasted. Near record temperatures are possible for a few areas. This will result in continued increased risk of heat related illness. pic.twitter.com/eJESZiZbxw
— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) October 14, 2020
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 officials said they expect weather to improve beginning at 6 a.m. Friday. After the severe weather has passed, PG&E will inspect equipment before restoring power.
Officials noted that actual shutoff and restoration times may change depending on weather and equipment conditions.