PG&E may shut customers' power off during extreme weather

PG&E said it is notifying customers in high fire danger areas that it may have to shut off power in the event of extreme weather, like a wildfire.

Roughly 500,000 Bay Area residents who live in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas are receiving the notices, according to PG&E Spokeswoman Deanna Contreras. She said the move is a precautionary measure that will help mitigate fires.

“If we foresee conditions are there we will let people know 48 hours in advance and again 24 hours in advance,” Contreras said.

This is the first time PG&E will proactively shut off power as part of their new Public Safety Power Shutoff Program. The announcement is one of several following last October’s deadly wildfires in the North Bay. Cal Fire recently said trees that fell onto PG&E power lines sparked some of those fires, including the Atlas Fire in Napa County.

Mark Toney, Executive Director of the Utility Reform Network, said their agency wants to make sure PG&E knows it is their responsibility to keep people safe they’re put in the dark.

“Our concern is that they proactively identify people who are medically vulnerable… and a plan is made for them,” Toney said. 

Contreras said PG&E has a hub to monitor wildfire risks. The combination of strong winds, low humidity, and critically dry vegetation could prompt a temporary turn off. The utility company would work with public safety authorities to cut power.

“It is a decision of last resort and will be made only in extreme circumstances,” Contreras added. “We know what the ramifications of turning off electricity mean.”

Customers who receive a letter or email notification are encouraged to update their contact information online to determine if they would like to be notified via text, phone, or email.