PG&E finds 130 damage sites from windstorm, reenergization continues

As the "all clears" are sounded for the restoration of power in more than 30 counties, Pacific Gas & Electric continues to explain that it's complicated and unpredictable. Many people continue to look for clarity around public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) now and in the future. 

As PG&E crews inspect some 17,000 miles of de-energized power lines, looking for damage, they must inspect every inch and make every repair before re-powering an area served by the lines.

Even with 65 helicopters, a fixed wing aircraft and 1,800 ground  inspectors, it takes hours to inspect and repair the equipment to make sure re-powering doesn't set off fire.

At at 6 p.m. news briefing, the utility identified 130 damage-hazard sites. An earlier report saw that figure triple from the initial 12 damage sites to 36. PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras said that number was expected to climb and that damage incidents from previous PSPS events had been as high as 60 instances. 

10,000 customers remained without power at 10 p.m. Tuesday night. The utility said they should have power restored by noon on Wednesday. 

The utility company showed some of those already found having the potential to set off a fire, especially where thrashing tree branches beat against one primary 12,000 volt line.

"Absolutely, a primary conductor down on the ground causes an arc flash event. In an arc flash event, sparks and a big flash could be an ignition in those winds," said PG&E Incident Commander Mark Quinlan.

However, Golden Gate Weather Services founder and a former professor who taught countless meteorologists at San Jose and San Francisco State universities says maybe, maybe not.

"It's hard to prove a negative. It's hard to prove a fire that didn't start and what the cause of that was unless there's some evidence of a tree branch that broke someplace and it was a circuit that was turned off but even they wouldn't know that that would have caused a fire," said Mr. Null.

Also on Tuesday, a coalition of consumer, impoverished, disabled and medically challenged rights groups want PG&E and the PUC to present outage data in a way advocates can analyze the true impacts on disadvantaged communities.

"We could not locate any data reported to the California Public Utilities Commission from Pacific Gas and Electric or any other organization which provided a granular level of detail concerning the impact of utility shutoff events," said Initiative for Energy Justice's Shalanda Baker.

Finally, the governor made clear, that this time around, fire weather truly has been 'mega extreme.' 

"We had wind gust of 140 miles an hour, there are hurricane level  winds, in Kirkwood. We're currently battling 14 major fires and complexes," said Governor Gavin Newsom.

Mega fire season still has more than a month to go.