With extremely dry conditions and predicted high winds posing an increased fire risk, PG&E is preparing for a potential Public Power Safety Shutoff (PSPS) to 38 counties in the state — including portions of Humboldt County — beginning as early as Sunday morning and possibly lasting until Tuesday.
“It may be the largest PSPS event to date,” Spokesperson for PG&E Melissa Subbotin told the Outpost this afternoon. “We did begin the process of notifying customers late yesterday afternoon and are continuing that today.”
The timing and strength of the extreme weather event is uncertain and the number of people affected is likely to change, Subbotin said. But PG&E will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available.
As of last night over 6,700 customers in portions of Southern Humboldt were expected to possibly be affected. To see if you should expect a PSPS in your area, go to PG&E’s Outages Map and type in your address.
For more information on the PSPS, you can watch the video above, or read the most recent PG&E press release below:
Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) Emergency Operations Center, Meteorology team and Wildfire Safety Operations Center are working together and tracking a significant, offshore wind event starting Sunday that is forecast to have the driest humidity levels and the strongest winds of the wildfire season thus far.
PG&E has notified customers in targeted portions of 38 counties about a potential Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) expected to start as early as Sunday morning (Oct. 25). Extremely dry, windy conditions with high gusts pose an increased risk for damage to the electric system that has the potential to ignite fires in areas with critically dry vegetation.
While there is still uncertainty regarding the strength and timing of this weather wind event, high fire-risk conditions are expected to arrive Sunday morning. High winds are currently expected to subside Monday morning (Oct. 26) in most impacted areas, with windy conditions lingering in some regions through early Tuesday (Oct. 27). PG&E will then patrol the de-energized lines to assess whether they were damaged during the wind event. PG&E will safely restore power as quickly as possible, with the goal of restoring most customers within 12 daylight hours, based on current weather conditions.
The highest probability areas for this PSPS include terrain of the northern and western Sacramento Valley, Northern and Central Sierra as well as higher terrain of the Bay Area, including the Santa Cruz Mountains, Central Coast Region and portions of southern Kern.
Customer Notification and Impact
The potential PSPS event is still approximately 24 hours away. PG&E in-house meteorologists, as well as staff in its Wildfire Safety Operations Center and Emergency Operations Center, will continue to monitor conditions closely and will actively look for opportunities to reduce the scope of the impacts based on evolving weather models and PSPS mitigation efforts such as the use of sectionalizing devices and temporary generation. Additional customer notifications will be issued as we move closer to the potential event.
Customer notifications—via text, email and automated phone call—began Friday afternoon, approximately two days prior to the potential shutoff. Customers enrolled in the company’s Medical Baseline program who do not verify that they have received these important safety communications will be individually visited in person by a PG&E employee with a knock on their door when possible. A primary focus will be given to customers who rely on electricity for critical life-sustaining equipment.
Customers can look up their address online to find out if their location is being monitored for the potential safety shutoff, and find the full list of affected counties, cities and communities at www.pge.com/pspsupdates.
Community Resource Centers Reflect COVID-Safety Protocols
PG&E will open 109 Community Resource Centers (CRCs) to support our customers. Locations of these CRCs is available at PG&E’s emergency website (pge.com/pspsupdates). These temporary CRCs will be open to customers when power is out at their homes and will provide ADA-accessible restrooms and hand-washing stations; medical-equipment charging; Wi-Fi; bottled water; and non-perishable snacks.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all CRCs will follow important health and safety protocols including:
· Facial coverings and maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet from those who are not part of the same household will be required at all CRCs.
· Temperature checks will be administered before entering CRCs that are located indoors.
· CRC staff will be trained in COVID-19 precautions and will regularly sanitize surfaces and use Plexiglass barriers at check-in.
· All CRCs will follow county and state requirements regarding COVID-19, including limits on the number of customers permitted indoors at any time.
Besides these health protocols, customers visiting a CRC in 2020 will experience further changes, including a different look and feel. In addition to using existing indoor facilities, PG&E is planning to open CRCs at outdoor, open-air sites in some locations and use large commercial vans as CRCs in other locations. CRC locations will depend on a number of factors, including input from local and tribal leaders. Outdoor CRCs will provide grab-and-go supply bags so most customers can be on their way quickly.
Where to Go to Learn More
· PG&E’s emergency website (pge.com/pspsupdates) is now available in 13 languages. Currently, the website is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Russian, Vietnamese, Korean, Farsi, Arabic, Hmong, Khmer, Punjabi and Japanese. Customers will have the opportunity to choose their language of preference for viewing the information when visiting the website.
· Customers are encouraged to update their contact information and indicate their preferred language for notifications by visiting pge.com/mywildfirealerts or by calling 1-800-743-5000, where in-language support is available.
· Tenants and non-account holders can sign up to receive PSPS ZIP Code Alerts for any area where you do not have a PG&E account by visiting pge.com/pspszipcodealerts.
· PG&E has launched a new tool at its online Safety Action Center (safetyactioncenter.pge.com) to help customers prepare. By using the “Make Your Own Emergency Plan” tool and answering a few short questions, visitors to the website can compile and organize the important information needed for a personalized family emergency plan. This includes phone numbers, escape routes and a family meeting location if an evacuation is necessary.
How Customers Can Prepare for a PSPS
As part of PSPS preparedness efforts, PG&E is asking customers to:
· Plan for medical needs like medications that require refrigeration or devices that need power.
· Identify backup charging methods for phones and keep hard copies of emergency numbers.
· Build or restock your emergency kit with flashlights, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.
· Keep in mind elderly family members, younger children and pets. Information and tips including a safety plan checklist are available at pge.com/psps.
· Continue to monitor PG&E’s new weather forecasting web page at pge.com/weather which is a dedicated page with weather forecasting information and a daily 7-day PSPS lookahead.