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Second red flag warning issued; PG&E warns of potential power cut for North Bay

The utility could turn off power to nearly 2,700 customers in Sonoma and Napa counties as early as Wednesday evening when a second period of severe fire weather is forecast to arrive.|

A second red flag warning has been issued for this week for the North Bay mountains, and could accompany proactive power shut-offs as dangerous weather conditions continue to pose a threat to a region tormented for months by wildfires.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. could cut power to nearly 5,300 North Bay customers as early as Wednesday evening when a second period of weather with the potential to spark or fan wildfires is forecast to arrive. The warning takes effect at 10 p.m. and lasts until 8 a.m. Friday.

The strongest winds during the second red flag warning period are expected overnight on Wednesday and Thursday, said David King, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Mountains and ridges could experience sustained winds from 10 mph to 25 mph, and stronger gusts around 40 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

“All the models are consistently showing that we’re going to have these increasingly dry conditions and we’re going to have stronger winds than the ones we’re experiencing (Tuesday night),” King said. “Unfortunately there’s been no rain, there’s no rain in the forecast and the pattern that we’re in keeps on bringing offshore winds.”

Almost 1,000 customers in Sonoma County could be affected, mostly in unincorporated land and likely starting between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. Thursday ahead of the strongest conditions forecast during the red flag warning period, PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said.

Customers east of Healdsburg and Geyserville, properties along Franz Valley, Porter Creek and Calistoga roads, and areas along Highway 12 in the northern Sonoma Valley were among those expected to lose power, Contreras said.

Roughly 4,300 customers in Napa County and another 1,000 customers in Lake County could also have their electricity turned off, the utility said.

Overall, the shut-off could affect about 54,000 customers in 19 counties statewide, PG&E said Tuesday. Areas that could be most affected by the hazardous weather during the second half of the week include the North Bay mountains, the northern Sierra Nevada and Mount Diablo in the East Bay, the utility said.

Weather conditions are expected to improve enough to begin damage inspections of PG&E power lines by early Friday morning, the utility said, adding that it hopes to restore power to customers within 12 hours after the weather improves.

The North Bay mountains are already under a red flag warning that expires Wednesday morning. It took effect Monday night, with some of the strongest wind gusts striking overnight on Monday and Tuesday.

The second warning, which starts Wednesday night, will threaten the same areas along the eastern Sonoma Valley mountains and throughout Napa County.

Combined with low humidity and vegetation at record dryness due to a lack of rain this season, the potential for a new fire is high, and if it ignites, it could spread rapidly.

Weather models show the potential for a period of even stronger winds beginning on Saturday, though it was too early to say how reliable that forecast was as of Tuesday night, King said.

You can reach Staff Writers Yousef Baig at 707-521-5390 or yousef.baig@pressdemocrat.com and Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com.

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