Thousands of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers have already lost power Wednesday morning, as the utility company begins its latest round of deliberate blackouts just after 7 a.m.
During a news conference Tuesday evening, PG&E detailed plans for the latest round of its Public Safety Power Shutoffs. The utility followed up in a 9 p.m. news release to say about 150,000 customers across 18 counties would be affected, down from the estimate of 181,000 customers earlier in the day. Among Sacramento-area counties impacted are Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Solano, Yolo and Yuba.
The first phase of Wednesday’s outages started between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., with North Bay area customers losing power first, according to PG&E’s online outage map.
The outages combine with red flag warnings from the National Weather Service for winds that could reach 55 mph and low humidity for Northern Sacramento Valley, and North and East Bay areas.
“We will continue to monitor the weather overnight, continue to monitor the weather forecast model data as it arrives, look at where the precipitation is building and where it may be developing and look for areas that the weather is trending favorably for a further reduction of scope,” said Scott Strenfel, chief meteorologist for PG&E, during the news conference.
Incident commander Mark Quinlan estimated de-energization would begin at 7 a.m. for the Sierra Foothills, 7 to 8 a.m. for the North Bay and about 8 to 9 a.m. for the North Sacramento Valley. According to a news release, Bay Area counties Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Mateo were removed from the blackout list Tuesday evening.
Portions of Butte, Plumas, Tehama, Yuba and Sonoma counties are expected to lose power around 4 p.m., according to the PG&E website.
During the conference, CEO and president of PG&E utilities Andrew Vesey spoke about steps the utility is taking to minimize the impact on customers.
“We’ve spent a lot of time continuing to improve the way we do PSPS,” he said. “We’ve focused a lot on communication making sure our website is robust, that our phone centers can answer calls, that we’re communicating what we know, when we know it in a way that people can be prepared. But let’s be clear we can’t do PSPS to a point that will make anybody happy. We’re not happy when we do it.”
Officials from Cal Fire and the state Office of Emergency Services are getting ready for the power shutoffs, as weather conditions increase the possibility of fire.
“We are urging all of those in the Public Safety Power Shutoff impact areas to take action now to prepare for extended periods of no power,” OES director Mark Ghilarducci said in a news release. “We are coordinating closely with our state and local government counterparts to ensure all emergency response assets are made available to mitigate the impacts of this wind event.”
PG&E initiated multiple shutoffs last month in a bid to avoid sparking new fires. Hundreds of thousands throughout Northern California were left without power. Even with the blackouts, the utility says its equipment might have caused the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County as well as smaller East Bay fires.
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