With meteorologists forecasting an impactful storm system this Saturday and into next week in Northern and Central California, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has thousands of workers standing by to respond to potential widespread power outages.
In advance of the storm, PG&E vegetation-management crews are out today, Friday, Dec. 10 working to keep trees away from powerlines during the forecasted wet and windy weather.
PG&E meteorologists, along with experts from the National Weather Service, forecast that the weather system is expected to begin across the north by Saturday afternoon, Dec. 11 and then spread east and south across the service area, delivering periods of gusty winds, widespread rain, heavy mountain snow and isolated thunderstorms. Most impacts of this stormy weather are likely to occur Sunday through Tuesday.
Rainfall totals with this system will be significant, with widespread totals of three to five inches of rain across the north, and rainfall equivalents of five to seven inches of rain likely across the northern Sierra. Significant snow in the Sierra above 5,000 feet is possible with multiple feet of accumulation in some locations. As the rain tracks southward through the storm’s progression, it will be joined by gusty winds, generally from the south, with expected widespread gusts of 30 to 40 miles per hour and localized gusts of at least 55 miles per hour possible in the higher terrain of PG&E’s service area.
“This strong storm has the potential to cause power outages due to significant rain, gusty winds and heavy snow in the mountains. We’re urging our customers to have a plan to keep themselves and their families safe. Our meteorology team is closely tracking the forecast and working with our crews in the field to ensure we’re ready to restore power safely and as quickly as possible,” said PG&E director of meteorology and fire science Scott Strenfel.
As seen with past storms, these wet and windy conditions might cause trees, limbs and other debris to fall into power lines, damage equipment and interrupt electric service. This remains a concern for this storm due to the drought-intensified conditions that weakened vegetation and could cause more trees to fall into our equipment and cause power outages.
PG&E’s meteorology team has developed a Storm Outage Prediction Model that incorporates real-time weather forecasts, historical data and system knowledge to accurately show where and when storm impacts will be most severe. This model enables the company to pre-stage crews and equipment as storms approach to enable rapid response to outages.
Workers are prepared to tackle restoration in challenging weather conditions and are supported by the utility’s geosciences team. Geosciences is monitoring potential post-wildfire debris flows from incoming rains which could impact PG&E’s equipment and vegetation around its equipment.
The utility is also stockpiling power poles, power lines, transformers, and other electric equipment at yards throughout its service territory to restore power to impacted areas as quickly as possible.
Customers can view real-time outage information on the PG&E website outage center and search by a specific address, by city or by county. This site has been updated to include in-language support for 16 languages.
Additionally, customers can sign up for outage notifications by text, email or phone. PG&E will let customers know the cause of an outage, when crews are on their way, the estimated restoration time, and when power is restored.
Storm Safety Tips
• Never touch downed wires: If you see a downed power line, assume it is energized and extremely dangerous. Do not touch or try to move it—and keep children and animals away. Report downed power lines immediately by calling 9-1-1 and then PG&E at 1-800-743-5002.
• Secure outdoor furniture: Deck furniture, lightweight yard structures and decorative lawn items should be secured as they can be blown by high winds and damage overhead power lines and property.
• Use generators safely: Customers with standby electric generators should ensure they are properly installed by a licensed electrician in a well-ventilated area. Improperly installed generators pose a significant danger to customers, as well as crews working on power lines. If using portable generators, be sure they are in a well-ventilated area.
• Use flashlights, not candles: During a power outage, use battery-operated flashlights, and not candles, due to the risk of fire. And keep extra batteries on hand. If you must use candles, please keep them away from drapes, lampshades, animals and small children. Do not leave candles unattended.
• Have a backup phone: If you have a telephone system that requires electricity to work, such as a cordless phone or answering machine, plan to have a standard telephone or cellular phone ready as a backup. Having a portable charging device helps to keep your cell phone running.
• Have fresh drinking water, ice: Freeze plastic containers filled with water to make blocks of ice that can be placed in your refrigerator/freezer during an outage to prevent foods from spoiling. Blue Ice from your picnic cooler also works well in the freezer.
• Turn off appliances: If you experience an outage, unplug or turn off all electrical appliances to avoid overloading circuits and to prevent fire hazards when power is restored. Simply leave a single lamp on to alert you when power returns. Turn your appliances back on one at a time when conditions return to normal.
• Safely clean up: After the storm has passed, be sure to safely clean up. Never touch downed wires and always call 8-1-1 or visit 811express.com at least two full business days before digging to have all underground utilities safely marked.
Other tips can be found at www.pge.com/beprepared.