PG&E prepares for more potential power outages with another wind event forecast for later this week

Dry offshore winds were forecast to return to the region later this week, prompting PG&E on Tuesday to send advance notifications to some 29,000 customers who may be subject to power shutoffs in an effort to reduce the risk of wildfire, the utility announced.

Power transmission tower is silhouetted by the rising sun in Burlingame, California on October 26, 2019. Potentially historic windstorm coming to the San Francisco Bay Area may prompt Pacific Gas and Electric Company, PG&E to shutoff power to

The potential Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) could affect targeted areas of 19 counties in Northern and Central California, including four Bay Area counties: Napa, Contra Costa, Solano, and Sonoma. 

"The sole purpose of a PSPS is to prevent debris, tree branches or trees or anything like that from coming into contact with energized power lines," said Deanna Contreras, PG&E's spokesperson.  

The alerts began going out on Tuesday, giving customers two-day advance notice. The notifications were going out by texts, emails and automated phone calls.

PG&E said the strong winds were expected to hit in the early morning hours Thursday. It would be the second such wind event this week.

"We’ve had two separate wind events that our meteorologists have been tracking pretty much back to back," said Contreras. "When we anticipate these sustained winds, these wind gusts, coupled with the drought that we’ve been in, the dry fuel that we’ve been seeing, these are the times where we are looking at shutting off the power for safety." 

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On Monday, the conditions prompted PG&E to shut off power to about 24,000 customers in parts of 23 counties. The following day the utility continued to inspect lines that were de-energized and was able to restore power to all customers by Tuesday night.

PG&E said its meteorologists would closely monitor the conditions in the coming days. "With the potential PSPS event two days away, conditions may change," the utility noted, adding that it will notify customers of any changes as conditions evolve. 

Residents can look up their address online to get updated information on whether their location might be affected by the potential safety shutoff by clicking here.   

The potentially affected PSPS customers by county: 

  • Butte County: 2163 customers
  • Colusa County: 553 customers
  • Contra Costa County: 293 customers 
  • Glenn County: 377 customers
  • Kern County: 651 customers
  • Lake County: 1774 customers
  • Napa County: 3750 customers 
  • Plumas County: 646 customers
  • San Luis Obispo County: 1488 customers
  • Santa Barbara County: 209 customers
  • Shasta County: 7962 customers
  • Sierra County: 976 customers
  • Solano County: 1591 customers 
  • Sonoma County: 1481 customers 
  • Stanislaus County: 30 customers
  • Tehama County: 1986 customers
  • Trinity County: 59 customers
  • Yolo County: 405 customers
  • Yuba County: 2523 customers

But this doesn't mean these are the only areas in danger of seeing fires start from these high winds. Most of the Bay Area will see more gusty winds this week.

"Roadside starts, chains, anything like that that could cause a fire, will start a fire right now in these conditions," said Marin County Fire Battalion Chief Bret McTigue. 

A spark caused a fire in Marin County Tuesday morning, and the wind caused it to spread quickly. McTigue said luckily a crew happened to be nearby, so they were able to contain it under 7 acres. 

Marin County is even more prepared after launching a new tool called Zone Haven this week. The tool helps the department make decisions about evacuations quickly, and separates the county into zones. 

"Timing is everything. So depending on, when we have these fuel conditions, weather conditions that line up, if we have a fast moving wildfire, we just don’t have time and we want to get that message out," said McTigue.