Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said the outages would start in far Northern California and ultimately could affect 386,000 customers in 38 counties, including Yolo County, with many of the shutoffs concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area. At a Saturday night briefing, utility officials said high winds were expected to arrive midday Sunday and reach 40 to 60 mph with higher gusts in the mountains. Winds that strong can topple trees and send branches into power lines.
PG&E announced that there were 165 customers in Yolo County who would be affected, including four medical baseline customers.
Some of the largest and deadliest fires in recent years were started by utility equipment being damaged by high winds, so PG&E has been aggressive about pre-emptively cutting power when fire conditions are most dangerous. This will be the fifth time PG&E has cut power to customers this year and by far the largest shutdown.
“We obviously recognize that power outages present hardships. That’s why we try to make it as small as we can,” PG&E incident commander Mark Quinlan said, noting that the planned shutdown had been reduced from 466,000 customers.
Cities throughout the region planned to open emergency operations centers and add police officers and firefighters to patrol high-risk areas. Officials also were encouraging people to have their cellphones fully charged or, if they have a landline, to connect an older model phone that doesn’t depend on electricity.
In Berkeley, just east of San Francisco, officials recommended residents consider leaving the hills before Sunday afternoon, especially if they would have trouble getting out quickly during a fire. In neighboring Oakland, where a blaze in the city’s hills in October 1991 killed 25 people, at least 10 parks will close Sunday and Monday.