Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) Emergency Operations Center, Meteorology team and Wildfire Safety Operations Center are working together and tracking a significant, offshore wind event starting Sunday that is forecast to have the driest humidity levels and the strongest winds of the wildfire season thus far.
PG&E has notified customers in targeted portions of 38 counties – including Stanislaus and San Joaquin – about a potential Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) expected to start as early as Sunday morning, Oct. 25. Extremely dry, windy conditions with high gusts pose an increased risk for damage to the electric system that has the potential to ignite fires in areas with critically dry vegetation.
High fire-risk conditions are expected to arrive Sunday morning. High winds are currently expected to subside Tuesday morning, Oct. 27. PG&E will then patrol the de-energized lines to ensure they were not damaged during the wind event. PG&E will safely restore power as quickly as possible, with the goal of restoring most customers within 12 daylight hours, based on current weather conditions.
While there is still uncertainty regarding the strength and timing of this weather wind event, the shutoff is forecasted to affect approximately 466,000 customers in targeted portions of 38 counties, including: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba. Some customers in 25 tribal communities may also be affected.
The highest probability areas for this PSPS include terrain of the northern and western Sacramento Valley, Northern and Central Sierra as well as higher terrain of the Bay Area, including the Santa Cruz Mountains, Central Coast Region and portions of southern Kern.
“The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our most important responsibility. PG&E’s 24/7 Wildfire Safety Operations Center and our team of in-house meteorologists continue to monitor weather conditions for this potential Diablo offshore wind event arriving Sunday morning and lasting through Tuesday morning,” said Michael Lewis, PG&E’s Interim President. “Initial forecasts indicate this could be our largest PSPS event this year so far. Our highest priority is to keep customers and communities safe and execute this event according to our plan and to then quickly restore power to all affected customers when it’s safe to do so.”
Customer notifications—via text, email and automated phone call—began late Friday afternoon, approximately two days prior to the potential shutoff. 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 customers who rely on electricity for critical life-sustaining equipment.
It is very possible that customers may be affected by a power shutoff even though they are not experiencing extreme weather conditions in their specific location. This is because the electric system relies on power lines working together to provide electricity across cities, counties and regions.
Customers can find the full list of impacted counties, cities and communities at pge.com/pspsupdates.
“We’re seeing four extremes in the weather for this potential PSPS event: extremely high winds, extremely low humidity, extreme dry fuels due to the hottest average temperatures over the last six months according to records that go back 126 years, and extreme drought across the territory given lack of rainfall,” said PG&E’s Scott Strenfel, head of meteorology and fire science. “While temperatures are expected to drop heading into this event with cold weather expected in some areas, the high winds, low humidity, dry fuels and lack of rainfall continues to result in high fire hazard conditions.”
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.