Outages Update: PG&E Restores Power to Nearly All Customers Hit by Recent Shutoff

A PG&E contractor works on utility poles near Geyserville on Oct. 31, 2019, in the aftermath of the Kincade Fire.  (Philip Pacheco/AFP via Getty Images)

Updated 10:30 a.m. Thursday

As of early Thursday morning, PG&E had restored power to about 150,000 of the roughly 172,000 households and businesses in 22 counties affected by its latest round of public safety power shutoffs, the utility said.

Power had been fully restored by late Wednesday night to all affected customers in Sonoma County, as well as in Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Kern, Lake, Lassen, Mariposa, Nevada, Placer, Siskiyou, Tehama and Tuolumne counties.

Crews on Thursday morning continued to conduct inspections and restore power in areas where it was safe to do so in Butte, Humboldt, Napa, Plumas, Sierra, Trinity and Yuba counties, with the goal of restoring service to some 5,000 impacted customers in those areas by noon Thursday, the company said.

Electric service, however, had still not been restored to thousands of customers mainly in the northern Sierra foothills because of ongoing wildfire threats and heavy smoke, and would remain off until it was safe to resume inspections, PG&E said.

The utility on Monday night began shutting off power across a vast stretch of its service area in an effort to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires amid hot, dry conditions and wind gusts of over 60 mph.

Many areas that lost power had also a been hit by a heat wave in recent days.


At daybreak Wednesday, as potentially hazardous weather conditions subsided, more than 3,000 PG&E workers began the process of inspecting by ground and helicopter the roughly 10,750 miles of transmission and distribution lines in the impacted areas before beginning to restore power.

The company said its goal was to restore power to nearly all impacted customers by Wednesday night.

“We want to reassure those customers who haven’t been restored yet that all hands are on deck to turn them back on, safely and as quickly as possible. Our goal is to have essentially all customers restored by tonight,” PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian said in an email.

She noted, however, that power restoration may be delayed for some customers if crews find significant damage to lines from wind-blown tree branches and other debris, or if smoke from nearby wildfires prevents helicopters from making aerial line inspections.

Nearly early 18,000 businesses and households were hit by the shutoffs in Sonoma County — mostly in and around Santa Rosa — as well as 5,000 customers in Napa County, near Calistoga and St. Helena.

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The rest of the Bay Area was untouched by this latest round of preemptive blackouts.

The company has pledged to cut the length of its shutoff events by at least half — with the goal of restoring power within 12 hours after its meteorologists give the “all clear” by increasing restoration crews, nearly doubling it surveillance helicopter fleet and making major infrastructure improvements.

“We are trying to make these events smaller, shorter and smarter for our customers,” Sarkissian said.

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Customers in the impacted areas were informed of the potential shutoffs about 48 hours before the lights started going out Monday night and were also given an estimate of when power would be restored, Sarkissian said.

The effort to improve its performance comes after the utility faced intense criticism last fall following a series of public safety power shutoffs that affected millions of customers throughout its service area, including a large swath of the Bay Area, some for days at a time.

At the time, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Marybel Batjer, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, excoriated PG&E and other for-profit utilities for the chaos and poor communication. Local emergency officials said they did not get timely information to relay to residents. The commission is continuing a nine-month investigation into the bungled blackouts.

PG&E's aging equipment has previously sparked some of the state's largest wildfires, including the deadly 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed much of the town of Paradise and killed 85. The utility pleaded guilty in June to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter; one death was ruled a suicide. The utility paid $25.5 billion in settlements to cover the losses from power line-sparked catastrophes.

PG&E, though, is still warning Californians to expect preemptive power shutoffs for the long-term as the state grapples with hot and windy weather that is ideal for sparking wildfires triggered by failing equipment.

This story includes additional reporting from the Associated Press and Bay City News