850K PG&E CUSTOMERS STATEWIDE, 400K IN BAY AREA, COULD LOSE POWER STARTING SATURDAY BCN31 -PG&E SHUTOFFS By Bay City News Service
As many as 850,000 PG&E customers across all of the utility’s service area could lose power this weekend in the latest public safety power shutoff triggered by forecasted high winds.
PG&E officials said in a statement on Friday that forecasted high winds and dry air could be one of the most powerful wind events in Northern California in decades, with widespread winds of up to 60 mph and gusts reaching up to 70 mph in higher elevations.
The expected shutoffs will begin Saturday evening and last through Monday. Customers in portions of 36 counties could lose power at some point.
All Bay Area counties except San Francisco are expected to have some outages over the next three days and nearly 400,000 customers in the Bay Area could lose power. That includes 57,360 customers in Alameda County, 48,824 in Contra Costa County, 86,813 in Marin County, 11,294 in Napa County, 64,932 in San Mateo County, 27,093 in Santa Clara County, 10,232 in Solano County and 92,877 in Sonoma County.
The shutdown could be even bigger than one that began on Oct. 9. Eventually 738,000 customers in 34 counties lost power at some point during that outage.
PG&E was widely criticized for its handling of the event, including for poor communication with customers and local governments.
PG&E has been shutting off power proactively to prevent wildfires after utility lines started massively deadly and destructive fires over the last two years. PG&E has estimated that similar power shutoffs may be necessary for the next decade until the utility can upgrade its technology.
But despite a power shutoff in Sonoma County on Wednesday night, an investigation has begun into damaged PG&E equipment found near the origin of the Kincade fire. The blaze had grown to 21,900 acres and destroyed 21 homes as of Friday afternoon and was only 5 percent contained.