North Bay copes with power shutoff while PG&E restores electricity elsewhere

A total of 53,000 PG&E customers lost power in the latest round of Public Safety Power Shutoffs, including 28,000 in the Bay Area.

Some had their power intentionally disconnected Wednesday night. And ower could be out through Friday at 10 p.m. in 24 counties. 

One of those darkened areas is Calistoga as the lights went off around 8 p.m. PG&E shut off power in Napa and Sonoma counties, parts of Alameda County like the Oakland hills, pockets of Contra Costa County near Mt. Diablo, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties near the mountains, Santa Clara and Lake counties. 

Thursday afternoon PG&E said they were given the "all clear" for portions of Alameda, Contra Costa, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties and that crews could start patrolling de-energized lines. Once they confirm those lines have not suffered any damage, power to those customers can begin being restored. 

The utility says they hope to get a weather all clear for the North Bay on Friday morning. Power restoration is still estimated to be at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, possibly sooner. 

The shutfoffs are a response to dangerous fire weather – and red flag conditions.

Two back-to-back wind events are expected Thursday morning and there is low humidity and hot temperatures. 

There’s low humidity and hot temperatures.

"It will still be very dry, we will still have red flag warning because the fuels are very dry, but the wind risk will be dissipated," said PG&E PSPS incident commander Mark Quinlan. "It's kind of a pain in the butt but it beats getting burned down."

The firestorm that roared from Calistoga to Santa Rosa in 2017 never really fades for the communities who lived through it.

Which is why, even after almost 20 PSPS events in recent years, people remain tolerant.

"I think PG&E is in a very precarious position right now and they don't really know what to do," said Megan Whyte of Calistoga. "I can't imagine what must be going through that company's mind."

Whyte suspects the utility is overly cautious now about pulling the plug on electricity, despite efforts PG&E is making to lessen the impact of the outage for everyone. This time around, East Calistoga, for example, has a new micro-grid operating since August, so about 60 percent of the population can skirt the outage.

"There's definitely the 'haves and 'have nots' in this town," said Whyte, who lives to the east but sympathizes with those on the west.

"We open up our house for showers, a hot meal and a cold beer," said Whyte, "and just in our bubble, just our friends in our bubble."

Whyte is a high school teacher who expects at least one-third of her students to have trouble logging in on during the rest of the week.

She suspects the utility is being overly cautious about calling for PSPS events.

"We're fortunate where we are," Whyte said. "But I feel for the other half of Calistoga who continually go days without anything, any power."