PG&E said it will begin shutting off power Wednesday to about 375,000 people in 18 Northern and Central California counties, including three in the Bay Area, because of the wildfire threat from another round of dry, windy weather.
The state’s largest utility decreased the number of people who could be affected from an original estimate of about 660,000 based on updated forecasts and said it will closely monitor the weather and could further reduce that number if it improves.
At the same time, PG&E officials said it wasn’t taking any chances when, in the middle of November, the usual rain hasn’t fallen in some areas, brush remains bone-dry and winds that could gust to 55 mph might knock tree branches or other debris into power lines, causing sparks that could set catastrophic fires.
“This lack of rain is keeping the threat of fire very real, this late in the season, in many areas,” said Scott Strenfel, PG&E’s principal meteorologist.
The planned blackouts will affect counties north of Sacramento, in the northern San Francisco Bay Area, the wine country and Sierra Nevada foothills.
Here’s a breakdown of the potential shutoff in the Bay Area, per PG&E’s Tuesday update:
- Napa County: 11,181 customers in Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Lake Berryessa, Napa, Oakville, Pope Valley, Rutherford, Saint Helena, Yountville.
- Solano County: 1,970 customers in Fairfield, Suisun City, Vacaville, Winters.
- Sonoma County: 38,376 customers in Annapolis, Bodega, Bodega Bay, Calistoga, Cazadero, Cloverdale, Duncans Mills, Forestville, Geyserville, Glen Ellen, Guerneville, Healdsburg, Jenner, Kenwood, Monte Rio, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rio Nido, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Villa Grande, Windsor.
The Sonoma County Office of Education annouced Tuesday a handful of school districts would be closing schools or revising their schedules.
The National Weather Service this week issued a red flag warning for Wednesday morning through Thursday morning in the North Bay mountains, East Bay hills and the Diablo Range.
The weather service is forecasting north to northeast winds of 20-30 mph, with gusts up to 35-45 mph in those areas. Isolated gusts on some peaks could reach up to 60 mph, the NWS said.
The winds combined with humidity levels dropping to 10% to 20% in some of those areas increases the fire danger, and any fires that develop could spread quickly, the weather service said.
The weather should ease by Thursday morning, allowing PG&E to begin restoring power, said Mark Quinlan, PG&E’s senior director of emergency preparedness and response.
The planned blackout would be the latest in a series of massive outages by the country’s largest utility, including one last month that affected nearly 2.5 million people and outraged local officials and customers who accused the utility of overkill and using blackouts as a crutch because it failed to harden its equipment to withstand fire weather.
The outages have been “terribly disruptive” and PG&E is taking steps to avoid them in the future but at the moment, “we won’t roll the dice on public safety,” company CEO Andy Vesey said.
For the latest updates on PG&E’s power shutoffs, go to the company website.
This post was originally posted at http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/PGE-to-Shut-Off-Power-in-18-Counties-Three-in-Bay-Area-565200712.html.