At least 186,000 PG&E customers are currently without power in the North Bay as the utility company starts its Public Safety Power Shutoffs across several regions of the San Francisco Bay Area early this morning.
As of 4 a.m., the shutdowns have left 185,000 PG&E customers without power in Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.
PG&E confirmed that they had begun phase one of the outages that could impact approximately 513,000 customers.
PG&E says they will initiate a second de-energizing phase on Wednesday between noon and 5 p.m. to another 300,000 customers, including Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties.
A third phase is being considered for the southernmost portions of PG&E’s service area, impacting approximately 42,000 customers. Specific locations are still to be determined.
On Tuesday night PG&E held a press conference for the first time this week giving details about the shutoffs.
“This is forecast to be the strongest offshore wind event since October 2017,” said Evan Duffey, a PG&E Meteorologist.
“We very much understand the inconvenience and difficulties such a power outage would cause,” said Sumeet Singh, the Vice President of Asset and Risk Management and Community Wildfire Safety Program at PG&E.
On Monday, PG&E doubled their bandwidth, which still did not accommodate an 800-percent increase in traffic to their website. The site crashed, as people looked to see if their home was in an outage area. Now, PG&E says they are working to double capacity again.
Late Tuesday, PG&E said they will provide backup generators to power the Caldecott Tunnel so that it can remain open, if and when they cut power to the East Bay commuter artery.
“We believe in backups, and backups, and backups,” said Andrea Pook, a spokesperson for East Bay MUD.
Pook says EBMUD, rented 29 portable generators, to pump water to their customers since much of our water supply relies on electricity too.
“What we want to do is preserve that water supply, so what we’re asking people to do is conserve water, shut off their outdoor irrigation, when the PG&E power shut down occurs.”
“This is not a good contingency for their customers,” said Marilyn Varnado, who lives in the Oakland Hills. Like many people in the Bay Area, she checked into a hotel, when she found out her home was in an outage area.
“Most people don’t realize what an outage really means,” said Varnado, who added, “stop lights are not going to be working, there’s going to be a lot of crazy things going on and I just think there’s going to be some tragedies because of that.”
PG&E says power restoration will begin Thursday afternoon after the weather event. PG&E crews will then have to inspect every inch of their power lines and infrastructure, and depending on damage from the expected wind, power could be off in some areas until Monday or Tuesday.
PG&E says as the weather evolves, they will provide updates about the power shutoff and restoration timing.