In an interview with The Lumberjack, PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras confirmed that approximately 850,000 customers could lose power on Oct. 26. | Photo by Deija Zavala

Power Outage Update: 850,000 PG&E Customers Could Be Affected

The upcoming blackout is expected to affect 36 counties across Northern California and last longer than before.

The upcoming blackout is expected to affect 36 counties across Northern California and last longer than before

The extreme weather at the heart of the upcoming Public Safety Power Shutoff is expected to begin Saturday early evening and last until midday Monday, according to Pacific Gas and Electric.

Despite original calculations that included only 32 counties and 640,000 PG&E customers, new information from the utility estimates the shutdown could impact 850,000 customers and possibly affect 36 counties across Northern California.

PG&E Corporate Spokesperson Deanna Contreras confirmed the updated calculations in a phone interview.

“This time there are some distribution lines that are in the PSPS scope,” Contreras said. “Whereas last time the PSPS was in transmission lines coming from outside of Humboldt that provide power here.”

Contreras emphasized that she wanted customers to understand the reasoning behind the shut-offs.

“I want people to understand why we’re doing this,” Contreras said. “It’s not just because it’s windy. I want people to understand that this is because there are serious wildfire risks during these weather events.”

Contreras’ tone matched that of the latest PG&E press release.

“The weather event could be the most powerful in California in decades,” PG&E’s statement said. “With widespread dry Northeast winds between 45-60 miles per hour and peak gusts of 60-70 mph in the higher elevations.”

According to Contreras, PG&E is working to minimize the shutoffs and is already working on a restoration plan for when the weather subsides. Contreras said the utility giant has requested help from other energy companies to speed inspections and repairs.

“These crews are expected to be staged and briefed on the restoration plan by Sunday evening,” Contreras said. “If weather progresses as expected, restoration could begin in some portions of the affected area as early as Monday afternoon.”

In response to the likely shutdown, Humboldt State will close campus from 9 a.m. Saturday through the end of Monday, Oct. 28, and encourages faculty and staff to grab belongings from offices and classrooms before buildings lock for the weekend.

During the outage HSU Dining Services will offer free meals at the J after 5 p.m. Saturday through Monday evening for staff and students that bring their HSU identification. To help prepare residents for the PSPS, Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services also posted a list of nine power outage tips to its Facebook.

“Have food for 2-3 days on hand that doesn’t require refrigeration and can be cooked on a camp stove or outdoor grill,” OES said in its post. “Remember though, never use a camp stove indoors.”

The PG&E press release is copied below:

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) today said it continues to monitor a potentially powerful and widespread dry, hot and windy weather event expected to begin impacting the service area Saturday between 6 and 10 p.m. and lasting until midday Monday.

PG&E will need to turn off power for safety several hours before the potentially damaging winds arrive. It’s important to note that as this weather system sweeps from north to south over a period of two days, PG&E customers across Northern and Central Californiawill feel the effects of hot, dry winds at different times, which means outage times will vary, as well.

The potential Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) is expected to affect approximately 850,000 customers and may impact portions of 36 counties across portions of Humboldt, the Sierra foothills, Western Sacramento Valley, North Bay, and across the greater Bay area, Monterey Bay and northern Central Coast on Saturday, Oct. 26. Customers in the southern-most portion of PG&E’s service area in Kern County could have power shut off for safety on Sunday, Oct. 27.

Predictive data models indicate the weather event could be the most powerful in California in decades, with widespread dry Northeast winds between 45-60 miles per hour (mph) and peak gusts of 60-70 mph in the higher elevations.

Winds of this magnitude pose a higher risk of damage and sparks on the electric system and rapid wildfire spread. The fire risk is even higher because vegetation on the ground has been dried out by recent wind events.

Given the forecast and conditions, PG&E is advising its customers of the potential for a widespread PSPS lasting several days, intended to prevent a catastrophic wildfire. As this intense weather event approaches the service area in the next 24 hours, PG&E’s forecasts will offer sharper detail, noting that the scope may continue to change on the number of customers who will be affected.

This article was updated at 5:15 p.m. Friday.

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