May Need to Proactively Turn Off Power for Safety in Portions of 32 Counties
Customers in the potential impact zone receiving 48-hour notification
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) emergency operations center, operations and meteorology teams, have been monitoring a new potentially widespread, strong and dry wind event Tuesday morning through midday Wednesday. This afternoon, the company began its 48-hour advance notifications to customers that it may be proactively turning power off for safety and conducting a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) as early as Tuesday morning, Oct. 29
The potential Tuesday safety shutoff is planned for varying start times depending on location throughout PG&E’s service area and is expected to impact portions of 32 counties in the Northern and Southern Sierra, North Bay, Bay Area and Santa Cruz mountains, North Coast and Kern County.
Customer notifications via text, email and automated phone call began this afternoon, approximately 48 hours prior to the potential de-energization. Customers enrolled in the company’s Medical Baseline program who do not verify that they have received these important safety communications will be individually visited by a PG&E employee with a knock on their door when possible. A primary focus will be given to those customers who rely on electricity for critical life-sustaining equipment.
Reason for PSPS
Due to forecasted extreme weather conditions, PG&E is considering proactively turning off power for safety. Windy conditions, like those being forecast, increase the potential for damage and hazards to the electric infrastructure, which could cause sparks if lines are energized. These conditions also increase the potential for rapid fire spread.
State officials classify more than half of PG&E's 70,000-square-mile service area in Northern and Central California as having a high fire threat, given dry grasses and the high volume of dead and dying trees. The state's high-risk areas have tripled in size in seven years.
“The sole purpose of PSPS is to significantly reduce catastrophic wildfire risk to our customers and communities. We know that winds generally above 45 mph are known to cause damage to the lower-voltage distribution system and winds above 50 mph are known to cause damage to higher-voltage transmission equipment. As we saw in a recent PSPS event on Oct. 9, we had more than 100 instances of damage and hazards on our distribution and transmission lines from wind gusts of this strength,” said Michael Lewis, Senior Vice President, PG&E Electric Operations.
Counties Potentially Impacted
Customers living in portions of the following counties are being notified: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba.
Current October 26 PSPS Event
As PG&E prepares for this next potential Oct. 29 PSPS event, it has more than 6,000 on-the-ground field personnel and 43 helicopters staged in the areas currently impacted by the Saturday, Oct. 26 PSPS event, to conduct patrols, inspections, make repairs and begin restoring power when and where it is safe to do so.
Public Safety Power Shutoff Criteria
No single factor drives a PSPS, as each situation is unique. PG&E carefully reviews a combination of many criteria when determining if power should be turned off for safety. These factors generally include, but are not limited to:
- A Red Flag Warning declared by the National Weather Service
- Low humidity levels, generally 20 percent and below
- Forecasted sustained winds generally above 25 mph and wind gusts in excess of approximately 45 mph, depending on location and site-specific conditions such as temperature, terrain and local climate
- Condition of dry fuel on the ground and live vegetation (moisture content)
- On-the-ground, real-time observations from PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Operations Center and observations from PG&E field crews
How Customers Can Prepare
As part of PSPS preparedness efforts, PG&E is asking customers to:
- Plan for medical needs like medications that require refrigeration or devices that need power.
- Identify backup charging methods for phones and keep hard copies of emergency numbers.
- Build or restock your emergency kit with flashlights, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.
- Keep in mind family members who are elderly, younger children and pets.
- Learn more about wildfire risk and what to do before, during and after an emergency to keep your family safe at PG&E’s Safety Action Center.
While customers in high fire-threat areas are more likely to be affected by a Public Safety Power Shutoff event, any of PG&E's more than 5 million electric customers could have their power shut off because the energy system relies on power lines working together to provide electricity across cities, counties and regions. This new Oct. 29 PSPS event is expected to be somewhat smaller in scope than the current Oct. 26 PSPS.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com and www.pge.com/news.