PG&E restoring power from preemptive shutoffs in the North Bay

Pacific Gas and Electric crews are still working to restore power for thousands of customers around the state and here in the Bay Area after the latest round of Public Safety Power Shutoffs.

More than a 100,000 Northern California residents lost power at the height of this latest PSPS-- 23,000 here in the Bay Area.

PG&E now says 97% of Sonoma County residents have had their power restored, and 41% of Napa County residents impacted have had their power restored. The utility said their goal is to have all customers power restored by Wednesday night, but said there may be some delays if crews find and have to repair any damage to the lines.

PG&E estimates that all customers will have their power restored by 9 p.m.

With dark skies around the Bay Area parts of Sonoma and Napa counties had to get by without lights and without power because of the latest public safety power shutdown from PG&E.

PG&E said the shutdown was necessary because fire conditions were so dangerous.

"We don't' want to shut down the power,' said PG&E spokeswoman, Deanna Contreras. "But, the conditions that were forecasted were so extreme that we felt that we had to shut down the power for safety."

PG&E said it's taking lessons learned last year and trying to make the power outages shorter in duration and smaller in scope. The utility said crews have been out inspecting lines in trucks and on foot. The ominous skies kept helicopters from flying for hours.

The all clear came by Wednesday afternoon. PG&E said that has helped accelerate line inspection and restore power.

"So, now we have gotten the go-ahead to start flying our helicopters and start inspecting those lines that are in the higher elevation areas and the rough t]errain area that we can't necessarily inspect with people on the ground," said Contreras.

The PSPS shut down impacting customers ability to run lights because of the dim skies, and air conditioners for heat and to clean the air.

Nathan Gomez from the Colibri Grill Cafe in Santa Rosa said the power outage forced them to rely on a generator to keep the refrigerators running, and slowed down their operations. Yet another obstacle as they struggle to keep their doors open in the midst of a pandemic.

"It's a hassle," said Gomez. "Back and forth all the time. first with the COVID, then with the shutoffs. We're just trying to do our best and keep up with everything."

PG&E said it understands how inconvenient the power shutoffs are, but stresses they are essential. The utility said it has to make a decision between shutting down power for tens of thousands of customers, or running the risk of energized lines starting another wildfire.

"We've learned at lot from out mistakes from last year," said Contreras. "And, so this year I think you'll notice they are shorter, smaller and smarter."

The utility is continuing to work to inspect and re-energize those lines. At this point PG&E said there are no planned PSPS outages in the near future.