Extreme weather challenges Humboldt power grid

Climate change complicates power outages in Humboldt

Increased extreme weather is stressing power grids throughout the United States, and Humboldt is no exception. Recent weather saw many Arcata residents without power during a storm. Though it is not uncommon for the weather to impact power, it is happening more often and for longer periods of time. A PG&E electric reliability report saw increasing trends in power outages for Humboldt county since 2017.

Power outages are becoming more common nationally. According to the US Energy Information Association, outages have been on the rise in frequency and duration. California saw frequent public safety power shutoffs in the fire season. Texas and Oklahoma saw a power grid collapse in response to a cold snap. East coast grids faced stressors from a pronounced increase in Category 4-5 hurricanes according to NOAA.

A 2018 National Climate Assessment mandated by the USGCRP summarized what continual extreme climate and weather patterns might mean for US power grids.

“Climate change and extreme weather events are expected to increasingly disrupt our Nation’s energy and transportation systems, threatening more frequent and longer-lasting power outages, fuel shortages, and service disruptions,” the report said.

The three main transmission lines importing power to Humboldt County are all located in wildfire hazard areas. This complicates hazards as power infrastructure ages over time. Aging powerlines coupled with drought conditions create extreme fire hazards. It’s these exact factors that led to the Camp fire in 2018 and a fire in Blue Lake in 2017. Jeremy Ward, a Fire Captain with the California Forest Service determined the cause of the Blue Lake fire was a faulty connector on a PG&E transmission line.

“[A PG&E troubleman] said they were not supposed to use those anymore, and now use a different style connector,” Ward said in an investigation report. Since 2018 PG&E has created a Community Wildfire Safety Program and plans to upgrade powerlines. Currently, up to one-third of PG&E powerlines are in high fire-threat divisions.

Power outages are an inconvenience on their own, but living in Humboldt means that a power outage may coincide with other disasters. Humboldt is located on a triple junction fault, home to the Pacific plate, North American plate, and Gorda plate. Proximity to the ocean also introduces tsunami risk. All of this coupled with a deactivated nuclear power plant built on a fault create a precarious situation.

Given any seismic activity, there is a good chance that a power outage could soon follow. When preparing a “go bag,” don’t count on reliable electricity. Emergency kits should account for all intersections of disaster that could impact the area. Amanda Admire is an instructor at HSU teaching preparedness in her classes. She specializes in physical and geological oceanography, specifically tsunami current dynamics and hazard mitigation.

“It’s very unique to live here geologically,” Admire said. “In terms of preparedness, the same rules apply. Creating an emergency kit in your home is very important in this area. Power outages are a great time to consider your emergency kit.”

Living in the Humboldt area means you should have a well rounded go-bag. Always make sure to have flashlights and extra batteries. The best place to store extra batteries is in an extra flashlight. Be sure to have shelf-stable food and water. Due to the nature of Humboldt’s geography, access to water can rely on pumps. When the power is out, water is not guaranteed. It is also important to carry first aid kits and rechargeable batteries for phones in case you need to contact emergency services.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email
Share on reddit

More Stories

Photo by Abraham Navarro | Cowboy Daddy's Drummer and Keyboard player Conner West, 25, and guitarist Skye Freitas, 24, jam out at the Gutswurrak Student Activity Center on April 28.

Local bands rock the Gutswurrak

by Ione Dellos Band members wait in front of the bathrooms, eyes anxiously fluttering from the stage to the growing audience in the Gutswurrak Student Activities Center. After the deepest sigh one could possibly take, they make their way to

Travis Allen pole vaults at the Green and Gold Track Event on Feb. 12 Photo by Morgan Hancock.

Athlete’s outperform at decathlon

by Carlos Pedraza The Cal Poly Humboldt Track and Field team participated in the Stanislaus State Multi-Event from Thursday April 7 to Saturday April 9. The team participated in over 10 different events, all of which were multi-day involving different

Photo by Morgan Hancock | Izzy Star hits a home run in final softball game of the season at the Bear River Recreation Center in Loleta, California on Saturday, April 30.

Cal Poly Humboldt plays its last softball game of the series

by Eddie Carpenter On April 30, Cal Poly Humboldt Softball played the last two games of their series against Cal State San Marcos. Due to weather conditions, the softball games had to be relocated to the Bear River Recreation Center

One Comment

  1. Sam Zuech Sam Zuech Wednesday, January 5, 2022

    You are so uninformed. Humboldt has its own power station and does not have to rely on the “grid”. Do more research or quit writing BS articles. The power station is on the Samoa peninsula, We are not reliant on PGE power from miles away.

Leave a Reply to Sam Zuech Cancel reply

%d bloggers like this: