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PG&E to shut off power to about 48,000 customers, including 700 in Sonoma County

Just over 700 PG&E customers in Sonoma County and a similar number in Napa County are set to have their power shut off at about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, PG&E said.|

Preparing For Planned Outages

Make sure PG&E has your current contact information by going to

www.pge.com or calling 1-800-743-5000.

Get local emergency alerts: Go to

SoCoAlert.com or call 866-939-0911, press “0” at the menu and ask the operator for assistance in registering.

For a closer look at the map, including the ability to zoom in on certain areas, go

here.

Learn how to prepare for power outages by going to

www.ready.gov/power-outages.

For a list of resources to help in planning for disaster go to

pressdemocrat.com/prepare.

_____

To find out if you service may be impacted by the power shut-off, enter your address in the lookup map at

www.pge.com.

_____

To see a map of PG&E geographic zones go to

www.pge.com.

After indicating it could shut off power to as many as 34,000 Sonoma County residents to reduce wildfire risk, PG&E decided Tuesday evening to turn off power to just over 700 customers northeast of Santa Rosa beginning at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The decision, announced after 7 p.m. Tuesday, ended two days of waiting by thousands of North Bay residents anxious to find out whether a large part of the region would lose power.

In addition to the Sonoma County customers, about 700 PG&E customers in Napa County near Calistoga, Lake Berryessa and Napa were expected to lose power at the same time, according to PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras. Another 47,000 of the utility’s customers in Butte, Nevada, Yuba, Placer and Plumas counties were expected to have their power turned off Wednesday.

The utility since Friday has issued a series of advisories and warnings about a potential North Bay power shutoff, prompted by expected hot temperatures and dry winds. On Sunday night, the National Weather Service issued a warning of increased fire danger for the North Bay.

While the high temperatures have materialized - Santa Rosa hit a record of 103 degrees on Tuesday - winds remained relatively calm into Tuesday evening. They were expected to pick up overnight, but PG&E officials and the National Weather Service expected them to end by noon Wednesday.

PG&E previously made the decision Monday afternoon to forgo the shutdown for about 58,000 customers in the North Bay, including 34,000 in Sonoma County across northeast Santa Rosa, Windsor, Healdsburg, Geyserville and the Sonoma Valley.

The utility said it would inform North Bay customers by Tuesday afternoon if it would initiate a shutdown Wednesday, but pushed the announcement back several times throughout the day, before announcing the smaller plan. PG&E said it would cut power for about 1,400 customers in Sonoma and Napa counties. Only about 700 customers would be affected in Sonoma County, specifically in the Mark West Springs area northeast of Santa Rosa - a region that was in the 2017 Tubbs fire burn zone.

PG&E did not know Tuesday when power will be restored. The utility will start restoring power after winds subside, Contreras said. Because the utility has to inspect power lines before reenergizing them, that process can take up to 24 hours.

Contreras said the changing weather conditions delayed PG&E’s announcement. The utility had expected strong winds earlier Tuesday evening, which would prompt a shutdown, but forecasts later showed strong winds would begin early Wednesday instead. The winds also moved “further north,” Contreras said, which changed the areas that would be affected by the shut-off.

County officials blasted the San Francisco-based company for the way it handled the possibility of a shut-off. The Board of Supervisors and city of Santa Rosa each unanimously declared a local state of emergency Monday.

Supervisor James Gore called PG&E’s new plan a “mixed bag,” saying that while he was relieved that the impact was greatly reduced in Sonoma County, he was frustrated by PG&E’s communication. He added that he has been in several meetings with the utility, and could not get clear answers or good information from them about the areas that would be affected by these shutdowns.

“We’re still in the situation where we’re playing too much guesswork with people’s lives,” Gore said. “It’s been mediocre at best, the coordination.”

Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins characterized PG&E’s communication over the past two days as giving the community whiplash, and worried it could turn the county into “the boy who cried wolf.”

Santa Rosa Vice Mayor Chris Rogers noted his own frustrations with the process, stating that PG&E had still failed to address several issues he raised at a meeting a few months back between the Santa Rosa City Council and the utility company on the topic of power shut-offs.

“I’m going to put it this way, I don’t think all the questions I asked them at that study session have been answered,” he said.

Specifically, Rogers hoped to see proactive power shutdowns come with the opening of PG&E-promised resource centers in the area around the time of the occurrence, not held off until the next morning as is current company policy. He added that he would expect PG&E to compare notes with San Diego Gas & Electric, which has been conducting preventative shut-offs for about a decade, to better coordinate with affected cities and counties.

Contreras confirmed the resource centers typically open at 8 a.m. the day after a shutdown, and that the affected areas are kept up to date about all PG&E decisions regarding planned shut-offs. Contreras added that PG&E planned to open a resource center in Santa Rosa at the Veterans Memorial Building and another in Calistoga at the Napa County Fairgrounds on Wednesday morning.

PG&E’s stance on the matter was insufficient for Supervisor Susan Gorin, whose home was destroyed in the October 2017 Tubbs fire and whose district was heavily impacted.

“Shame on PG&E for not doing the work that needs to happen to give our community (assurances) about what areas of our community might be affected,” she said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “It is so frustrating and triggers every fire survivor’s PTSD once again.”

PG&E’s new San Francisco nerve center is where a team of PG&E meteorologists and analysts use weather stations and high-definition cameras at various locations across the North Bay to forecast the hot, dry and windy conditions that are prone to start wildfires in high-risk areas. Under the advisement of this group, which has both fire and electrical infrastructure expertise, a company executive who is the day’s in-charge officer - usually a president or senior vice president - decides whether to cut power in a certain area.

Along with the North Bay, portions of Butte, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sutter and Yuba counties were notified Sunday that an upcoming overnight shutdown could be on the horizon, with about 29,000 customers across Butte, Nevada and Yuba counties ultimately seeing their power turned off around 6 p.m. Monday.

On Tuesday morning, PG&E crews were out inspecting more than 1,350 miles of transmission lines in the area to restart power once it was found safe to do so, Contreras said. By Tuesday night, all the affected customers saw service restored. But PG&E also announced Tuesday night that it planned to shut off power for 46,812 customers in Butte, Nevada, Placer, Plumas and Yuba counties about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Had PG&E moved forward with the original shut-off, it would have been the largest purposeful de-energization in state history, according to Sonoma County Emergency Management Director Christopher Godley. With the smaller shutdown, the county’s Emergency Operations Center will close Wednesday.

Gore said he hopes the reduced impact of the shutdown will offer an opportunity to step back and improve communication.

“In a strange way, this allows us to move for one more day away from a de-energization disaster and move back to the needs for the strategic partnership ... between local government, state government and PG&E,” Gore said. “So it doesn’t mean less work. It just means back to work.”

Staff Writer Tyler Silvy contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler. You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat.com.

Preparing For Planned Outages

Make sure PG&E has your current contact information by going to

www.pge.com or calling 1-800-743-5000.

Get local emergency alerts: Go to

SoCoAlert.com or call 866-939-0911, press “0” at the menu and ask the operator for assistance in registering.

For a closer look at the map, including the ability to zoom in on certain areas, go

here.

Learn how to prepare for power outages by going to

www.ready.gov/power-outages.

For a list of resources to help in planning for disaster go to

pressdemocrat.com/prepare.

_____

To find out if you service may be impacted by the power shut-off, enter your address in the lookup map at

www.pge.com.

_____

To see a map of PG&E geographic zones go to

www.pge.com.

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