A PG&E truck outside the Embarcadero substation. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Updates: Second wave of PG&E shutdowns rolls into Bay Area; thousands more powerless

Follow along as the planned outages unfold around Northern California

Thursday, 12:14 p.m. PG&E officials say all shutoffs are completed, but total restoration of power in all areas could take days. See related story for latest updates.

Thursday, 1:47 a.m.: PG&E has continued the second phase of its Public Safety Planned Shutoff late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, with locales in and near the Peninsula, Berkeley, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Clara Valley and the Santa Cruz area losing power.

The second phase of PG&E’s shutdown and de-energizing started around 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, PG&E officials said.

According to PG&E’s outage website, the new round of outages further south in the San Francisco Bay Area began around 10:45 p.m., with customers in locations affected as far north as Pinole (2,372 customers), as far west as Half Moon Bay (12,491), as far south as Morgan Hill (6,459) and communities near Watsonville (La Selva Beach – 626) and as far east as an area just south of Livermore (63 customers) and Walnut Creek (2,643) as of 1:30 a.m.

Among the bigger cities and communities affected in the immediate Bay Area by the shutdown: Berkeley (3,537 customers), Oakland (13,365), San Jose (4,295) and Castro Valley (6,144). San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo tweeted early Thursday that approximately 15,000 homes in Almaden and Evergreen neighborhoods were without power.

South of the Bay in the Santa Cruz County area, the major locales of Santa Cruz (3,793 customers), Scotts Valley (8,694) and Aptos (7,356) have also seen major outages during the second phase.

PG&E officials haven’t provided an estimate to when power will be restored and have said it could be out for several days.

Solar customers are also affected by the shutdown.

“When PG&E restores power, rooftop solar systems should re-engage automatically,” PG&E officials said in a statement. “Solar systems cannot be powered off a generator as the two technologies do not work together. Customers who have a home battery system paired with their solar system may generally have up to two hours of backup power, depending on the size of their battery.”

PG&E officials said the company doesn’t reimburse customers for losses during shutdown events “as power will be shut off for safety when gusty winds and dry conditions, combined with a heightened fire risk, threaten a portion of the electric system.”

Despite the fact that reimbursement is unlikely, PG&E officials said customers can file claims that are reviewed on a case-by-case basis at any time at https://www.pge.com/en_US/residential/customer-service/help/claims/claims.page.

The University of California at Berkeley and Evergreen Valley College in the southeast San Jose foothills confirmed they will be closed on Thursday.

10:37 p.m.: PG&E officials said they have initiated the power shutoff that was expected Wednesday night in the East Bay, South Bay and Santa Cruz and southern Coastside area, including Half Moon Bay.

As of 10:37 p.m., the shutoffs for those areas had begun and will continue through midnight, PG&E spokesperson Karly Hernandez said.

9:50 p.m.: PG&E launched a new website Wednesday night amid the continuting power shutoff. The website is meant to give customers a chance to find out if they will be affected by the planned outage Wednesday. It allows customers to type in their address for information about whether their power will be shut off. However, in some cases, the answer brings only more uncertainty, saying, for example, “PG&E may need to turn off power for public safety at this address.” PG&E’s main website had problems Tuesday and Wednesday as customers tried to find out whether the preemptive shutdown was going to affect them.

7:37 p.m.: School districts in both Oakland and Contra Costa county announced school closings for Thursday in due to the Public Safety Power Shutoff that’s expected to begin as early as 8 p.m. on Wednesday in the East Bay.

Oakland Unified School District officials said they will close nine schools on Thursday.

Only one school, Skyline High School in the Oakland hills, was closed on Wednesday and will remain closed on Thursday.

The other schools that will be closed on Thursday are Fruitvale, Grass Valley, Montclair, Sequoia and Howard elementary schools, Elmhurst United Middle School, Rudsdale Continuation High School and Sojourner Truth Independent Study.

The school district’s 74 other schools will remain open on Thursday.

Pinole Valley High School and Ellerhorst Elementary School, in Pinole, Madera Elementary School in El Cerrito, Olinda Elementary School in Richmond and Kensington Elementary School in the Kensington area of unincorporated Contra Costa County will all be closed on Thursday.

Related: Why San Francisco remains spared

6:55 p.m: Power may be shut down in the East Bay and South Bay anywhere between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. tonight, including Alameda, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, according to PG&E officials.

PG&E warned that its power lines were close to vegetation that could spur wildfires in high-wind conditions expected to swell through the Bay Area tonight.

Some of that much-warned-of wind did not materialize in some Bay Area counties Wednesday, causing Bay Area residents to cry foul. But in a Wednesday evening press conference, PG&E meteorologist Scott Strenfel said those winds were just late.

“It’s a pretty serious situation,” he said, because a windstorm via Diablo Winds is on the way.

“Don’t get complacent, because the strongest winds are coming tonight,” Strenfel said.

PG&E also said it would launch a new website with an interactive map for Bay Area residents to check where power outages would occur. PG&E’s original interactive map and website crashed earlier Wednesday due to the crushing loads of web traffic.

Still, the weather has remained somewhat elusive. Though PG&E shut off power for some 513,000 customers early Wednesday in its Phase 1 de-energization plan, its Phase 2 de-energization planned for noon was postponed until later tonight, leaving East and South Bay communities in limbo.

“If the weather doesn’t materialize as expected we have the opportunity to abort,” Strenfel said, but would need to be iron-clad certain.

PG&E officials are expected to make that call by 9 p.m. at the latest.

Importantly, communities not along the planned shutdown areas may still lose power, as PG&E grids overlap and intersect, utility officials said.

While a total 800,000 customers may see power shut down from the fear of severe winds, PG&E did restore power for some 50,000 customers in the Sierra Foothills that were originally expected to lose power for days, said Sumeet Singh, vice president of assest and risk management at PG&E.

Note, a PG&E customer is analogous to a household, which may contain many people, meaning more than a million people may be affected by this week’s power outages.

The utility was able to restore that power by isolating transmission lines from high-risk lines that may be susceptible to causing wildfires. That utility aims to do the same for Humboldt county Wednesday night.

“Due to the large number of outages and potential unknown to the system, it could take several days to fully restore power,” Singh warned.

PG&E owns roughly 25,200 circuit miles of overhead distribution line and 5,563 circuit miles of overhead transmission line in wildfire risk areas, according to the utility’s records.

PG&E is “on track” to clear roughly 150 miles of overhead transmission lines of vegetation that might pose a wildfire risk this year, Singh said.

4:45 p.m.: Power in Santa Cruz County is expected to be shut off sometime between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. as part of PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff, Watsonville police said.

3:59 p.m.: PG&E opened a “community resource center” with electricity and creature comforts in the parking lot of Merritt College in the Oakland hills Wednesday in an attempt to offset the impact of the Public Safety Power Shutoff, now scheduled to go into effect in the area at 8 p.m.

A large tent was set up to provide shade, air conditioning and bottled water. Inside, there are chairs and tables with electrical outlets so people can charge their phones and devices.

Nany Safford, a resident of the Crown Ridge or Ridgement neighborhood in Oakland, shares information with her neighbors by email, and came to the center to get the latest information about the outage.

Safford is unhappy with the phone number and website PG&E set up to disseminate information about the outage and said the utility has not been effective at getting the word out.

“Their map is not accurate,” Safford said.

She’s also upset with PG&E for what appears to be a very chaotic handling of a potentially dangerous situation caused by inadequately maintained equipment.

“I understand the need for caution, but they also need to be more proactive in recognizing the impacts of their actions,” Safford said.

People across the state have voiced frustration after going to PG&E’s website for information about the outage, only to find that it was not functioning properly.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, posted a Constituents Guide on Power Outages in the East Bay on Wednesday afternoon advising affected residents to consider staying with a friend where the power is still on and prepare for any health needs involving refrigeration of medication and power for medical devices.

For more information from Lee’s office on how to get through the shutoff, people can go to https://bit.ly/2Mqlkgw.

3:02 p.m.: PG&E has placed barricades around the entrance to its San Francisco headquarters on Beale Street. When asked about the barricades and whether the utility had recieved threats, a spokesperson for the company said “our most important responsibility is the safety of our customers and the communities we serve and our employees.”

“With regard to the barricades in front of our San Francisco offices, it is not uncommon for us to do this to help our employees safely get where they need to go,” said PG&E spokesperson Kristi Jourdan in a statement. “Our employees are working hard to ensure that our system operates safely and that power will be restored quickly after the weather passes.”

Earlier Wednesday, the California Highway Patrol told multiple news outlets that a PG&E truck had possibly been shot at in Colusa County. The incident happened at around 8 p.m. Tuesday.

1 p.m.: PG&E’s planned Public Safety Power Shutoff, which was expected to impact hundreds of thousands of people across the Bay Area around noon on Wednesday, has been delayed until 8 p.m. in some areas, according to government agencies in the East Bay.

The City of Lafayette and the Town of Moraga have both issued statements on www.nixle.com indicating that PG&E officials have delayed the power outage for about eight hours due to weather conditions, since the anticipated high winds that prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Red Flag Warning have not yet occurred.

The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District confirmed that information, adding that fire danger remains high and urging area residents to be “ultra cautious in ALL outdoor activities & report any fires to 911 immediately,” in a tweet around 1 p.m.

9 a.m.: With PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff underway Wednesday morning, for the second straight day the utility’s website is not accessible for customers to find out the latest information about the shutoff.

For most of Tuesday, PGE’s website was down, and the utility had to post maps on Twitter of the affected portions of all 34 counties across the state that would be losing power. The site remained down as of shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday.

PG&E spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan said their teams had doubled the database capacity on the website earlier this week in anticipation for increased traffic, but that there is seven or eight times the normal traffic on the site.

Jourdan said PG&E is continuing to work to increase server capacity and the number of customer requests the site can handle, as well as developing other ways to communicate outage information.

“Our teams are fully engaged and working on multiple fronts to address the issue as quickly as we can,” she said.

According to PG&E, the shutoff is happening in three phases, with power having been shut off in the early morning hours Wednesday to 513,000 customers across 22 counties, including Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.

Around noon, an additional 234,000 customers will lose power in the second phase of the shutoff, including those in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

A third phase of the shutoff is still being considered for the southernmost part of PG&E’s service range.

The decision to turn off power was because of a forecast for dry, hot and windy weather, with peak winds reaching 60-70 mph at higher elevations, according to PG&E.

PG&E crews work to replace telephone poles that were burned by the Camp Fire on Billie Road in the town of Paradise in Butte County on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, more than a week after the fire broke out. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
PG&E workers dissemble broken power lines after the Camp fire ripped through Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 15, 2018. (Joel Angel Juarez/Zuma Press/TNS)

8:30 a.m.: As the first phase of power outages due to PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff starts, the number of customers affected in the San Francisco Bay Area has rapidly increased early Wednesday morning.

What started as 20,000 PG&E customers without power across the region has jumped to several thousand more across several locales, per PG&E’s outage map.

Solano, Sonoma and Napa counties have been hit the hardest so far, with the cities of Fairfield having 17,963 customers powerless and Vacaville 13,665 as of 2:30 a.m. The city of Napa has been hit hard as well, with 19,357 PG&E customers without power as well. Sonoma has 15,925 powerless, St. Helena 6,685 and Calistoga 3,321.

Outages have also spread to Santa Rosa (8,140 customers), Rohnert Park (2,105), Sausalito (2,564) and Tamalpais-Homestead Valley (2,034). Several unincorporated areas in Napa, Marin, Solano and Sonoma counties have also been hit with power outages.

“We understand the effects this event will have on our customers and appreciate the public’s patience as we do what is necessary to keep our communities safe and reduce the risk of wildfire,” said Michael Lewis, PG&E’s senior vice president of Electric Operations, in a statement.

PG&E officials released a statement early Wednesday citing forecasted winds of 60-70 mph at higher elevations from Wednesday morning until Thursday morning for the start of the shutdowns.

According to the National Weather Service, which issued a Red Flag Warning on Tuesday morning from Wednesday morning until 5 a.m. Tuesday, locations above 4,000 feet are the most likely so see wind speeds above 60 Mph.

PG&E officials didn’t provide an exact number of total outages, and referred to its website outage map for up-to-date numbers and locations of customers without power.

Phase No. 1 of the shutdown encompasses the shutdown of power to approximately 513,000 customers in several Northern California counties.

Phase No. 2 is expected to start around 12 p.m. Wednesday and is expected to affect 234,000 more PG&E customers, including those in the more immediate Bay Area, including Oakland and San Jose.

PG&E customers impacted by the shutdown can visit PG&E community resource centers starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The centers will be equipped with restrooms, bottled water, electronic-device charging and air-conditioned

seating for up to 100 people. The utility company said the centers will only be open during daylight hours.

Here is a list of centers in the Bay Area:

In Napa County: Solano County Fairgrounds at 1001 Fairgrounds Dr.

in Vallejo and the Napa County Fairgrounds at 1601 N. Oak St. in Calistoga.

In Santa Clara County: Avaya Stadium, 1123 Coleman Ave. San Jose.

In Contra Costa County: Bishop Ranch Parking Lot, 2600 Camino Ramon, San Ramon.

In San Mateo County: Pasta Moon Restaurant, 845 Main St., Half Moon Bay.

In Solano County: Mission Church, 6391 Leisure Town Rd., Vacaville.

In Sonoma County: Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building 1351 Maple Ave., Santa Rosa.

In Alameda County: Merritt College, Lot B, Leona St., Oakland.

In Santa Cruz County, Twin Lakes Church, 2701 Cabrillo College Dr., Aptos.

For more information on outages across the region, visit pge.com/psps or @PGE4ME on Twitter.

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