SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Thousands of San Francisco Bay Area residents awoke Monday morning in homes without electricity in the wake of planned PG&E power shutoffs as a windstorm that generated hurricane force gusts overnight triggered a lingering Red Flag Warning and a continuing threat of wildfires.
The National Weather Service said as of 3:20 a.m. wind gusts in the 60-50 mph range continued to howl in the mountainous areas above wine country. Overnight, gusts on Mt. St. Helena reached gusts of 89 mph with sustained winds of 76 mph.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, wind gusts measuring in the 50-mph range howled in the Grizzly Peak area of the East Bay Hills with many in the 60-mph range buffeting Mt. Diablo. At Oakland International Airport gusts of 58 mph were recorded late Sunday night with other reports of 45+ mph in various locations of the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
Thankfully as of early Monday only a few small wildfires had erupted and were quickly brought under control by vigilant firefighters. Among those small blazes was one along eastbound Highway 580 just west of Eden Canyon in Castro Valley. A large response of nine fire engines brought the flames quickly under control. Crews kept the blaze to 3-4 acres.
“We got a report of a vegetation fire off the freeway,” said Kent Carlin of the Alameda County Fire Department. “We hit it pretty, pretty fast…The whole area has been affected by the wind, trees down…It’s been a pretty busy night.”
There were reports of a possible flare-up within the Glass Fire burn zone in Napa County Sunday night off Highway 29 near the top end of Old Lawley Toll Road by Table Rock at around 10:50 p.m. and a fire broke out in Sonoma County near the intersection of Healdsburg Avenue and Passalaqua Road northeast of Healdsburg. A quick response kept that blaze at 1-2 acres.
Across the Bay Area from Napa to Concord, dozens of trees had been toppled by the winds, causing minor damage.
A Red Flag Warning issued for the North Bay Mountains & East Bay Hills has been extended through 5 p.m. Tuesday. Meanwhile, the warning for the Coastal Regions, Santa Cruz Mountains, & lower valleys was to be in place until 5 p.m. Monday.
Across the region, drought conditions, tinder-dry hills, low humidity and gusty winds were creating a formula for a wildfire outbreak.
With forecasters warning of weather conditions similar to those that sparked the 2017 deadly October firestorm in wine country, including the Tubbs Fire that ravaged areas of Santa Rosa, utility officials decided to launch the largest round of Public Safety Power Shutoffs of the year.
Approximately 361,000 PG&E customers in 36 counties would have their power cut off and would remain without electricity until Tuesday. In the Bay Area that number was at least 105,916 customers were in the dark.
RELATED: Click For PG&E Outage Map
“This by far the largest (planned outage) we’ve experienced this year, and the most extreme weather,” said Aaron Johnson, PG&E’s vice president of wildfire safety and public engagement.
Some of the largest and deadliest fires in recent years were started by utility equipment being damaged by high winds, so PG&E has been aggressive about pre-emptively cutting power when fire conditions are most dangerous. This will be the fifth time PG&E has cut power to customers this year and by far the largest shutdown.
“We obviously recognize that power outages (Public Safety Power Shutoffs) present hardships. That’s why we try to make it as small as we can,” PG&E incident commander Mark Quinlan said, noting that the planned shutdown had been reduced from 466,000 customers.
Across the Bay Area, residents have prepared for as much as two days without power to light their homes and refrigerate their food.
At Silverado Ace Hardware store in Calistoga over the weekend, people were buying generators, electrical cords, flashlights, batteries, gas cans and other items, said Kathleen Collins, the store’s assistant manager.
The Napa County town of 5,000 people has been affected by many of the power outages this year. But in the previous outage, the PG&E brought in temporary generators to provide electricity.
“The generators are are still set up out there, so I’m hoping they’re going to keep our power up,” Collins said.
She said losing power is becoming a common occurrence, and people are having to live without electricity for days at time.
“There’s not much we can do about it,” Collins said. “We’ve already been devastated so much by these fires. Being without power seems the only solution right now.”
Several parks operated by the East Bay Regional Park District were expected to remain closed Monday because of the same concerns about fire danger.
Parks that will remain closed include Anthony Chabot, Claremont Canyon, Huckleberry, Lake Chabot, Leona Canyon, Redwood, Roberts, Sibley, Tilden, Wildcat Canyon and Kennedy Grove. Updates are available at www.ebparks.org