PG&E Narrows Area That Could Be Affected by Power Shutoffs

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The Sebastiani Theatre and much of downtown Sonoma went dark during the last PG&E power shutoff on Oct. 10, 2019. Sonoma is once again on the list of affected cities for this week's power shutoff due to high fire danger.  (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Updated 7:18 p.m. Tuesday

PG&E says it has reduced the area — and the number of customers — that could be affected by threatened blackouts Wednesday.

With high winds and heightened fire danger forecast to return to much of Northern California early Wednesday, PG&E had notified about 303,000 customers in 25 counties on Monday that power could be shut off as a safety measure.

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Tuesday evening, the utility said it had reduced the overall scope of the potential outage to roughly 150,000 customers in 16 counties.

A company spokeswoman said that five Bay Area counties had been removed from the potential shutoff list — Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara. Outside the immediate region, four other counties — Santa Cruz, Amador, Trinity and Colusa — were also removed from the outage list.

“If conditions change, forecasts change, we will pivot and change with the weather," said Mark Quinlan, PG&E's incident commander, Tuesday evening at a press conference.

PG&E plans to cut power to some areas as early as 7 a.m. on Wednesday. The utility will begin restoring power following a weather "all clear," which is expected Thursday at 8 a.m. for all counties.

By next year, PG&E hopes to dramatically reduce the frequency, scale and scope of the power shutoffs.

“It’s our commitment, and we’re making that commitment very publicly, that next year we will not be in this situation. That we’ll be able to protect the public in ways that aren't as terrribly disruptive as they are today," said PG&E’s Utility President Andy Vesey.

Here's the company's most recent list of counties facing blackouts and how many customers may be affected:

Original post, last updated 8:45 p.m. Monday

With a new onslaught of high winds forecast to sweep bone-dry Northern California starting Tuesday night, PG&E has notified customers in 25 counties it's likely to impose another round of "public safety" blackouts this week.

In an updated list of potential shutoffs released Monday evening, the utility said the preemptive power outages beginning early Wednesday could affect a total of 303,000 customers, or at least 750,000 people, in an area stretching from the Santa Cruz Mountains through the East Bay and North Bay to the northern Sierra Nevada.

The Bay Area counties the utility has put on notice include Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma. The shutoffs are designed to minimize the chance power lines will touch off wildfires during periods of heightened fire danger.

The potentially affected counties outside the Bay Area include: Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo and Yuba.

The precise timing of the shutoffs across the Bay Area remained unclear Monday evening.

The Marin County Sheriff's Office issued a Nixle alert saying a blackout could occur about 4 p.m. Wednesday, with the utility beginning to restore power after an "all clear" Thursday morning.

The Moraga Police Department put out a message saying that PG&E would begin to cut power at 9 a.m. Wednesday to a total of 18,584 customers in Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda.

The city of Berkeley tweeted that it was expecting a blackout early Wednesday in the southeastern corner of the city, in a hilly area near the Claremont Hotel. Later, the city said that all the affected addresses are actually in Oakland and that it was seeking confirmation of that from PG&E.

The driving force behind the threatened shutoffs is a return of the windy weather that prompted four October blackouts affecting more than 2 million people in PG&E's 70,000-square-mile service area.

The National Weather Service offices for the Bay Area and the Sacramento Valley-northern Sierra region issued red-flag fire warnings Monday afternoon because of a forecast of gusty northerly or northeasterly winds coupled with humidity levels falling to 10% to 20%.

The warnings are in effect from 4 a.m. Wednesday through 7 a.m. Thursday.

In a forecast updated Monday afternoon, the Bay Area NWS office said the windiest conditions are expected in terrain above 1,000 feet in the North Bay mountains, the East Bay Hills and the Diablo Range to the south. Winds are expected to increase to 20 to 30 mph with gusts from 35 to 45 mph. The highest points in the region, such as Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County and Mount Saint Helena on the Lake-Sonoma-Napa County border, could see gusts as high as 60 mph, forecasters say.

As the potential blackouts approach, the utility activated an online address lookup tool that will allow customers to see whether a power shutoff is under consideration for their area.