PG&E Begins Historic Shutoffs, Totaling 940,000 Customers

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PG&E cut power earlier this month, on Oct. 11, 2019, in Montclair Oakland. (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

Updated on Sunday at 1:29 p.m.

Due to fierce winds expected across Northern and Central California Saturday night, PG&E is preemptively cutting power to approximately 940,000 customers in an effort to prevent destructive fires.

The blackouts will affect roughly 90,000 more customers than previous estimates by the utility. More than 2.5 million people total could be without power.

PG&E said the outages will affect parts of every county in the Bay Area except for San Francisco.

Here is a map of planned power shutoffs across the region:

Weather forecasts predict dry, hot and windy weather to hit the region between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday and last through Monday afternoon.

The power shutoffs are happening in six phases, but the utility previously warned shutoff times may change depending on weather conditions.

The first shutoffs were expected as early as 2 p.m. on Saturday, but were delayed, according to PG&E during a press conference Saturday night. The utility said it shut off power in areas of the Northern Sierra Foothills, Northern Sacramento Valley and the North Bay at 5 p.m.

PG&E estimates power shutoffs in the East Bay, South Bay and Peninsula to begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, which were previously scheduled for 5 p.m.

“Charge any devices you might need, have water and nonperishable foods at your disposal, and if you have special medical needs, please be sure to have access to support and resources,” PG&E’s Utility President Andy Vesey said Friday.

More power shutoffs may be looming for next week based on emerging weather patterns, warned Vesey on Saturday night.

“As your power comes back on, please use that time to prepare again,” Vesey said. The company hopes to provide details on Sunday about more potential shutoffs, he added.

In a press conference in Napa County Saturday afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom blasted the utility’s infrastructure, saying that years of negligence allowed its equipment to become outmoded.

“We also are working on a new statewide emergency declaration that will be forthcoming," Newsom announced. "And that declaration will provide more flexibility and localized resource access.”

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On Saturday, the severity of the wind event became even more clear to forecasters.

"This wind event is forecast to be the most serious weather situation that Northern and Central California has experienced in recent memory," said Michael Lewis, PG&E's senior vice president of electric operations.

When compared to the conditions that fueled the North Bay Firestorm of 2017, these winds not only have the potential to be stronger but also the potential to last longer, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Anderson.

“The peak winds during the wildfires in the North Bay in 2017 only lasted four to 6 hours,” Anderson said. “These wind speeds – we’re looking at a range of 24 to 30 hours.

The planned shutoffs are more widespread than the ones earlier this month.