PG&E Warns of Further Shutoffs Due to Dry, Offshore Wind

Rebekah Sager
October 21, 2019 - 5:39 pm
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Approximately 209,000 customers were notified of preemptory power shutoffs due to dry offshore winds starting late Wednesday evening.

PG&E released the below statement:

The potential safety shutoff is planned for varying start times depending on location beginning Wednesday evening and is expected to affect approximately 209,000 customers and may impact portions of 15 counties in the Sierra Foothills and the North Bay, including Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Sierra, Sonoma, Sutter, and Yuba.

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.

The sole purpose of a PSPS event is to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire ignitions. Windy conditions, like those being forecast later in the week, 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

PG&E’s meteorological and operations teams continue to monitor weather models that show potential strong and dry offshore wind gusts that may exceed 55 mph late Wednesday evening through Thursday afternoon for portions of the Sierra Foothills. Gusts of 35-45 mph have been forecast for some North Bay counties, with some localized areas expected to experience 55 mph gusts.

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 sustained winds 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 the last PSPS event, we had more than 100 instances of serious damage and hazard on our distribution and transmission lines from wind gusts of this strength,” said Michael Lewis, Senior Vice President, PG&E Electric Operations.

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