SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric will cut power to over 1 million people on Sunday to prevent the chance of sparking wildfires as extreme fire weather returns to the region, the utility announced Friday.
The nation’s largest utility said it will black out customers in 38 counties — including most of the San Francisco Bay Area — as weather forecasts called for a return of bone-dry, gusty weather that carries the threat of downing or fouling power lines or other equipment that in recent years have been blamed for igniting massive and deadly blazes in central and Northern California.
The safety shutoffs were expected to begin as early as Sunday morning and last into Tuesday, affecting 466,000 homes and businesses or more than 1 million residents assuming between two and three people per home or business customer.
Cuts are predicted to encompass parts of the Sacramento Valley, the northern and central Sierra Nevada, upper elevations of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Central Coast and portions of southern Kern County.
San Francisco is the only Bay Area county that will not be impacted by the PSPS.
The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings for many areas, predicting winds of 35 mph or higher in San Francisco and lower elevations and up to 70 mph in some mountains. The concern is that any spark could be blown into flames sweeping through tinder-dry brush and forestland.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, this event is a 9,” Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Lab, told the Bay Area News Group. “Historically our biggest fires are in October. We are in a critical period.”
The National Weather Service said the conditions could equal those during devastating fires in California’s wind country in 2017 and last year’s Kincade Fire.
PG&E on Friday evening released updated estimates on how many customers would be effected by Sunday’s PSPS:
Alameda County: 39,401
Contra Costa County: 20,148
Marin County: 19,626
Napa County: 15,598
San Mateo County: 4,458
Santa Clara County: 4,770
Solano County: 1,606
Sonoma County: 38,119
A total of nearly 144,000 customers will be losing power between Sunday and Wednesday, according to PG&E’s latest estimates.
A map showing the full area that will be impacted by the PSPS is available on the PG&E PSPS website.
The Bay Area office of the National Weather Service on Friday confirmed the latest Red Flag Warning due to forecast high winds in those areas as well as parts of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties starting late Sunday morning.
The Fire Weather Watch has been upgraded to a #redFlagWarning beginning Sunday morning for elevated terrain then including lower valleys of the #bayArea Sunday evening. Winds are expected to be the strongest of the 2020 fire season with critically dry conditions.#CAwx #CAfire pic.twitter.com/nfjkxSPHUT
— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) October 23, 2020
Earlier Friday, authorities in Moraga and Orinda issued an advisory to residents regarding the new PSPS starting Sunday, even though the utility has yet to release more specific details on its Public Safety Power Shutoff website.
The advisory sent out by the Orinda police department said that the PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff event is scheduled to begin at approximately 4 p.m. Sunday and would end sometime Wednesday between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m.
The advisory said that approximately 7,680 Orinda customers will be affected by the PSPS, which translates to a majority of the town.
Lafayette Police also issued an advisory regarding the Sunday PSPS.
PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in Lafayette Scheduled to Begin Sunday Afternoon 10/25/20, https://t.co/NaIPFlYMSp
— Lafayette Police -CA (@LafayettePD) October 23, 2020
Residents in the area are advised to plan ahead by preparing an emergency kit, ensuring they have flashlights and extra batteries and storing water and non-perishable foods.
The utility had announced earlier this week that thousands of Bay Area customers would be impacted by the PSPS event that started Wednesday, but by Thursday morning, the shutoff was scaled back and did not impact any Bay Area counties.
PSPS TIPS (More information at pge.com)
Before the outage:
- Plan for your family and pet medical needs. Do you have enough prescription meds? If you have major medical needs that depend upon electricity, is it safer for you to relocate to a friend’s or family member’s home out of the area?
- Have an emergency supply kit with food and water.
- Flashlights? Extra batteries?
- Keep all of your mobile devices charged.
- Identify backup charging methods.
- Store water and non-perishable foods.
- If you have a generator, do you have extra fuel?
- Keep vehicle fuel tanks full.
- Remember, gas stations, stores and ATMs in the immediate area may be closed.
- Know how to use the manual release on your garage door.
- Talk with your neighbors and friends and share your plans.
During the outage:
- Keep freezers and refrigerators closed.
- Monitor freezer and refrigerator temperatures with a thermometer.
- Use perishable food supplies first.
- Use generators, stoves and grills outdoors away from windows.
- Disconnect electronics and appliances to avoid damage from electrical surges.
- Check on neighbors, animals and family.
- Drive safely and slowly as traffic signals may not be functioning properly.
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report