A PG&E logo on a work truck parked outside the Embarcadero substation at Folsom and Fremont streets San Francisco on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

PG&E plans rolling blackouts due to high winds

PG&E warned ratepayers this week that it may need to proactively issue a Public Safety Power Shutoff in parts of 24 counties, including the Bay Area, due to dry offshore winds that are expected to start Wednesday evening and could damage energized power lines.

Roughly 54,000 customers may be affected, according to PG&E. The power shutoff could affect customers in Alameda, Contra Costa, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties.

The utility routinely shuts off power in high-risk areas for wildfires because its equipment has caused several massive fires in recent years.

More than 11,000 customers in Napa and Sonoma counties are likely to be affected by the power shutoff as both counties continue dealing with the Glass Fire, which was 97 percent contained as of Wednesday morning and had burned more than 67,000 acres in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties.

According to PG&E, customers could lose power in the North Bay mountains near Mt. St. Helena, parts of the East Bay near Mt. Diablo, a section of the Oakland Hills east of Piedmont between state Highway 24 and the Upper San Lorenzo Reservoir, elevated areas near the Calaveras Reservoir and parts of the Santa Cruz and Big Sur mountains.

PG&E officials anticipate the shutoff will affect less than 0.5 percent of Bay Area customers and around 1 percent of the utility’s overall 5.4 million customers.

Those affected by the power shutoff will have access to PG&E-run community resource facilities that will offer restrooms, charging capabilities for medical equipment and electronics, Wi-Fi, bottled water and non-perishable food. Resource center attendees are advised to follow state and local public health policies to prevent the coronavirus’ spread, including avoiding mixing of households and wearing a face covering. PG&E customers can find out their anticipated shutoff status at pge.com/pspsupdates.

Locations of the East Bay Regional Park District in the East Bay hills will also be closed to the public Wednesday morning through Friday morning due to a Red Flag warning for critical fire danger conditions. Closed parks include Anthony Chabot Regional Park in Castro Valley; Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, Huckleberry Regional Preserve, Leona Canyon Open Space Regional Preserve, Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, Roberts Regional Park and Sibley Regional Preserve in Oakland; Tilden Regional Park in the Berkeley hills; Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area in El Sobrante, and Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in Richmond.

The Red Flag warning from 5 a.m. Wednesday to 11 a.m. Friday is based on the forecast of a major wind event with anticipated winds of 45 to 75 mph in elevated areas in the East and North bays.

“These winds will combine with critically low humidity resulting in critical fire weather conditions,” Alameda County said in an advisory. “In these conditions, any ongoing fires or new fires will have the potential to rapidly spread.”

The East Bay Regional Park District Fire Department will be staffing several park fire stations along with CalFire, officials said.

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