SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) continues to monitor a potentially widespread, strong and dry offshore wind event forecasted to start Monday evening and continue through mid-day Wednesday. Given the expected conditions, PG&E began its 48- hour advance notifications to customers in areas where PG&E may need to proactively turn power off for safety and reduce the risk of wildfire from energized power lines.
Sunday Flex Alert: Energy Conservation Needed 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The extreme weather is also increasing demand on the statewide electric grid. Separate from any PSPS event, the state’s grid operator has issued a Flex Alert, a voluntary call for energy conservation to help balance power supply with demand. That Flex Alert runs from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. today, tomorrow and Monday
Potential Public Safety Power Shutoff for Monday and Tuesday
The potential Monday-evening Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) could impact approximately 103,000 customers in portions of 17 counties in the Sierra foothills, North Bay and East Bay.
Specifically, customers in portions of the following counties are being notified: Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Sonoma, Tehama, Tuolumne and Yuba.
The potential PSPS event is still two days away. PG&E in-house meteorologists as well as its Wildfire Safety Operation Center and Emergency Operation Center will continue to monitor conditions closely, and additional customer notifications will be shared over the next few days.
Customer notifications—via text, email and automated phone call—began late this afternoon, approximately 48 hours 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.
Public Safety Power Shutoffs: What PG&E Customers Should Know
Why PG&E Calls a PSPS Event
Due to forecasted extreme weather conditions, PG&E is considering proactively turning off power for safety. Windy conditions, like those being forecast, 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.
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.
No single factor drives a PSPS, as each situation is unique. PG&E carefully reviews a combination of many criteria when determining if power should be turned off for safety. These factors generally include, but are not limited to:
- Low humidity levels, generally 20 percent and below
- Forecasted sustained winds generally above 25 mph and wind gusts in excess of approximately 45 mph, depending on location and site-specific conditions such as temperature, terrain and local climate
- A Red Flag Warning declared by the National Weather Service
- Condition of dry fuel on the ground and live vegetation (moisture content)
- On-the-ground, real-time observations from PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Operations Center and observations from PG&E field crews
New for 2020: Improved Watch and Warning Notifications
In response to customer feedback requesting more information as soon as possible to ensure they have time to prepare for and plan in advance of a potential PSPS event, PG&E will provide improved Watch and Warning notifications this year.
Whenever possible, an initial Watch notification will be sent two days in advance of a potential PSPS event. This is what is being sent to customers this evening. One day before the potential PSPS event, an additional Watch notification will go out, notifying customers of the possibility of a PSPS event in their area based on forecasted conditions.
A PSPS Watch will be upgraded to a Warning when forecasted conditions show that a safety shutoff will be needed, and that it is going to happen soon. Whenever possible, Warning notifications will be sent approximately four to 12 hours in advance of the power being shut off.
Both Watch and Warning notifications are directly tied to the weather forecast, which can change rapidly.
As an example of how notifications have been improved for 2020, customers will see the date and time when power is estimated to be shut off as well as the estimated time when their power will be restored, all provided two days before the power goes out. Last year, the estimated time of restoration was not provided until the power had been turned off.