SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – More than 22,000 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers in the Bay Area remained without electricity Thursday due to the Public Safety Power Shutoff, a measure taken to decrease the risk of wildfires.
The PSPS event was scheduled to coincide with increased fire danger due to high temperatures, increased winds and low humidity forecast through Friday by the National Weather Service.
A Red Flag Warning was issued for much of the North Bay and East Bay, along with the Santa Cruz Mountains starting Wednesday, with the latest heat wave creating “critical fire weather conditions.”
By early Thursday evening, the National Weather Service was reporting a number of record high temperatures that were set or tied, adding that additional records would probably be set on Friday.
— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) October 16, 2020
Peak wind gusts were measured at Bay Area peaks in the North and East Bay overnight, with 65 mph winds clocked at Mount St. Helena and 57 mph winds measured at Mount Diablo.
Temperatures are expected to get even hotter on Friday, with the region under a heat advisory through Friday evening 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
On Wednesday night the utility shut off power to about 39,000 customers across 24 counties, including seven counties in Bay Area. Napa and Alameda were the most impacted local counties, with power shut off to more than 9,200 and 5,300 customers, respectively.
“A PSPS is really our last resort,” PSPS spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian told KPIX 5. “It’s not something that we take lightly, because we understand how difficult this is for our customers, especially during COVID.”
PSPS Outage Numbers By Bay Area County (As Of Thursday Evening):
Contra Costa: 929
San Mateo: 1,687
Santa Clara: 2,210
PG&E on Thursday evening said it has set up 40 community resource centers and partnered with 14 food banks across Northern California to provide support to customers during the power shutoff.
PG&E Community Resource Centers are open until 10 PM to support customers impacted by Public Safety Power Shutoffs. To find a location near you and hours of operation, visit: https://t.co/X1ClEBDDlC pic.twitter.com/UAOmYtp92J
— PG&E (@PGE4Me) October 15, 2020
PG&E weather forecasters noted that another round of increased winds was scheduled to begin Thursday night, with wind speed of 15-30 mph expected along with gusts up to 55 mph in some areas.
The utility noted Thursday evening that some customers 6,000 already had their power restored, brining the total number of customers affected by the PSPS to approximately 32,000. Incident Commander Mark Quinlan said an additional 2,000 customers would have their power restored by the end of the evening.
PG&E officials are still anticipating an all-clear for the PSPS event by Friday morning, with power restoration efforts commencing soon afterwards.
Residents can keep track of the current PSPS event by looking up their address on the PG&E alerts website.
In the East Bay, the utility shut off powder in parts of the Oakland Hills, which dealt with a PSPS earlier this year and where memories of the 1991 firestorm linger. KPIX 5 assignment editor Maya Castro recorded video where power was out early Thursday morning.
The @PGE4Me #PSPS is underway. Over 22,000 customers in the Bay Area are impacted across 7 counties. This is what is looked like driving through the #Oakland hills this morning. Looks like Lucky is the only one with a generator. pic.twitter.com/wujrJiqdVr
— Maya Castro (@mayaashleyyy) October 15, 2020
At Floral Outlet and Gifts in Oakland’s Montclair neighborhood, owner Syroos Mozavien said the PSPS could cost him thousands of dollars.
“We are going to lose all of our flowers, because especially on a hot day like this, the flowers get wilted very quickly,” Mozavien told KPIX 5.
Meanwhile, people in the Napa Valley community of Calistoga, who have repeatedly dealt with PSPS events, lamented about the latest shutoff.
“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 Wednesday night.
“Every single time they have done it,” said resident Marcella Franco. “I’ve lost count at this point.”
The utility set up “microgrids” with temporary generators at various locations 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.
PG&E shut off power as the region faces increased fire danger due to unseasonably high temperatures, dry conditions and strong offshore winds, particularly in the higher elevations. The National Weather Service has declared a Red Flag Warning for much of the North Bay and East Bay, along with the Santa Cruz Mountains until Fridat at 11 a.m.
As soon as the winds calm down, PG&E said they will immediately send crews out to check every mile of power lines to ensure none are damaged. The utility expects power to be restored to customers affected by the PSPS on Friday.