California Faces Historic Power Outage Due to Fire Danger

on Oct9
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2019-10-09 05:09:38

PG&E is beginning to proactively turn off power to 800,000 customers in parts of several Bay Area counties and across much of Northern, Central and coastal California due to heightened fire danger.

A Tweet from the Marin County Sheriff’s Department has confirmed that outages are underway, and that there are no traffic lights at certain intersections. Outages at traffic lights should be treated as four-way stops. 

The outage marks the largest preventative outage in state history to try to avert wildfires caused by faulty lines.

PG&E said it would begin turning off power to 800,000 customers in 34 counties starting after midnight Wednesday amid forecasts of windy, dry weather that create extreme fire danger. To the south, Southern California Edison also said Tuesday that more than 106,000 of its customers in parts of eight counties could face power cuts. PG&E said the power will be turned off in communities in stages.

In the Bay Area, the public safety power shutoffs could impact more than 250,000 customers across Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties, according to PG&E.

The City of San Jose will hold a press conference at City Hall Wednesday at 7 a.m. to update residents on the status of the power shutoffs. 

The news came as residents in the region’s wine country north of San Francisco marked the two-year anniversary of deadly wildfires that killed 44 and destroyed thousands of homes. San Francisco is the only county in the nine-county Bay Area where power will not be affected.

A look at how many PG&E customers are estimated to be impacted during planned power shutoffs in the Bay Area. (Oct. 8, 2019)

Photo credit: NBC Bay Area

The planned outages have prompted many schools and colleges in the Bay Area to cancel classes. See a full list of school closures here.

There were concerns late Tuesday that the power outages would force Caltrans to close the Caldecott and Tom Lantos (Devil’s Slide) Tunnels, but PG&E crews were able to provide generators to keep them open.

PG&E map shows areas that may be impacted from a Public Safety Power Shutoff event.

Photo credit: PG&E

The shutoffs could potentially last for several days, according to PG&E.

The county-by-county breakdown below shows how many Bay Area customers could be impacted by the shutoffs:

  • Alameda County: 32,613 customers in Oakland, Castro Valley, Fremont, Union City, Berkeley, Hayward, San Leandro, Sunol, Pleasanton, Livermore.
  • Contra Costa County: 40,219 customers in San Ramon, Orinda, Lafayette, Moraga, Pinole, Richmond, Kensington, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Berkeley, Canyon, San Pablo, Pittsburg, Rodeo, Concord, Albany, Antioch, Martinez.
  • Marin County: Updates to come
  • Napa County: 32,124 customers in Napa, Saint Helena, Calistoga, Angwin, Pope Valley, Rutherford, Oakville, Deer Park, Lake Berryessa, Yountville, American Canyon.
  • San Mateo County: 14,766 customers in Half Moon Bay, El Granada, Woodside, Moss Beach, Montara, Portola Valley, Pescadero, La Honda, Redwood City, San Gregorio, Loma Mar, San Mateo, Menlo Park, Emerald Hills, Pacifica, Princeton.
  • Santa Clara County: 38,123 customers in San Jose, Morgan Hill, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Redwood Estates, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Coyote, Gilroy, Mount Hamilton, Palo Alto, Holy City.
  • Solano County: 32,862 customers in Fairfield, Vacaville, Suisun City, Vallejo, Dixon.
  • Sonoma County: 66,289 customers in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Petaluma, Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Glen Ellen, Penngrove, Geyserville, Kenwood, Rohnert Park, Windsor, Annapolis, Stewarts Point, Cotati, Cazadero, Guerneville, Larkfield, El Verano, Boyes Hot Springs, Fulton, Bodega Bay.

PG&E’s plans to proactively cut power were prompted by high winds and low humidity in the forecast. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the hills and valleys in both the North Bay and East Bay from 5 a.m. Wednesday until 5 p.m. Thursday. A Red Flag Warning has also been issued for the Santa Cruz Mountains between 5 p.m. Wednesday and 12 p.m. Thursday.

Some of the most destructive blazes in California in recent years were started by PG&E power lines. Winds can knock down live wires and power poles or drive trees and other vegetation into contact with them.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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