Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) Emergency Operations Center, Meteorology team and Wildfire Safety Operations Center are working together and tracking a significant, offshore wind event starting Sunday that is forecast to have the driest humidity levels and the strongest winds of the wildfire season thus far.
PG&E has notified customers in targeted portions of 38 counties about a potential Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) expected to start as early as Sunday morning (Oct. 25). Extremely dry, windy conditions with high gusts pose an increased risk for damage to the electric system that has the potential to ignite fires in areas with critically dry vegetation.
High fire-risk conditions are expected to arrive Sunday morning. High winds are currently expected to subside Tuesday morning (Oct. 27). PG&E will then patrol the de-energized lines to ensure they were not damaged during the wind event. PG&E will safely restore power as quickly as possible, with the goal of restoring most customers within 12 daylight hours, based on current weather conditions.
While there is still uncertainty regarding the strength and timing of this weather wind event, the shutoff is forecasted to affect approximately 466,000 customers in targeted portions of 38 counties, including: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba. Some customers in 25 tribal communities may also be affected.
The highest probability areas for this PSPS include terrain of the northern and western Sacramento Valley, Northern and Central Sierra as well as higher terrain of the Bay Area, including the Santa Cruz Mountains, Central Coast Region and portions of southern Kern.
“The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our most important responsibility. PG&E’s 24/7 Wildfire Safety Operations Center and our team of in-house meteorologists continue to monitor weather conditions for this potential Diablo offshore wind event arriving Sunday morning and lasting through Tuesday morning,” said Michael Lewis, PG&E’s Interim President. “Initial forecasts indicate this could be our largest PSPS event this year so far. Our highest priority is to keep customers and communities safe and execute this event according to our plan and to then quickly restore power to all affected customers when it’s safe to do so.”
Customer Notification and Impact
The potential PSPS event is still two days away. PG&E in-house meteorologists as well as staff in its Wildfire Safety Operation Center and Emergency Operation Center will continue to monitor conditions closely, and additional customer notifications will be issued as we move closer to the potential event.
Customer notifications—via text, email and automated phone call—began late this afternoon, approximately two days prior to the potential shutoff. Customers enrolled in the company’s Medical Baseline program who do not verify that they have received these important safety communications will be individually visited by a PG&E employee with a knock on their door when possible. A primary focus will be given to customers who rely on electricity for critical life-sustaining equipment.
It is very possible that customers may be affected by a power shutoff even though they are not experiencing extreme weather conditions in their specific location. This is because the electric system relies on power lines working together to provide electricity across cities, counties and regions.
Customers can find the full list of impacted counties, cities and communities at pge.com/pspsupdates.
Potentially Affected Customers
Below is a list of customers who could potentially be affected by this PSPS event.
- Alameda County: 39,401 customers, 1,483 Medical Baseline customers
- Alpine County: 575 customers, 6 Medical Baseline customers
- Amador County: 10,448 customers, 805 Medical Baseline customers
- Butte County: 19,185 customers, 1,833 Medical Baseline customers
- Calaveras County: 19,329 customers, 967 Medical Baseline customers
- Colusa County: 565 customers, 32 Medical Baseline customers
- Contra Costa County: 20,148 customers, 957 Medical Baseline customers
- El Dorado County: 41,009 customers, 2,891 Medical Baseline customers
- Fresno County: 4,746 customers, 417 Medical Baseline customers
- Glenn County: 377 customers, 18 Medical Baseline customers
- Humboldt County: 6,712 customers, 232 Medical Baseline customers
- Kern County: 649 customers, 32 Medical Baseline customers
- Lake County: 31,590 customers, 2,613 Medical Baseline customers
- Lassen County: 989 customers, 50 Medical Baseline customers
- Madera County: 16,542 customers, 1,513 Medical Baseline customers
- Marin County: 19,626 customers, 608 Medical Baseline customers
- Mariposa County: 1,203 customers, 45 Medical Baseline customers
- Mendocino County: 10,038 customers, 552 Medical Baseline customers
- Monterey County: 242 customers, 6 Medical Baseline customers
- Napa County: 15,598 customers, 510 Medical Baseline customers
- Nevada County: 40,252 customers, 2,446 Medical Baseline customers
- Placer County: 18,060 customers, 1,117 Medical Baseline customers
- Plumas County: 9,370 customers, 429 Medical Baseline customers
- San Joaquin County: 10 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- San Mateo County: 4,458 customers, 120 Medical Baseline customers
- Santa Clara County: 4,770 customers, 238 Medical Baseline customers
- Santa Cruz County: 14,317 customers, 975 Medical Baseline customers
- Shasta County: 25,169 customers, 1,997 Medical Baseline customers
- Sierra County: 1,101 customers, 24 Medical Baseline customers
- Siskiyou County: 57 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Solano County: 1,606 customers, 100 Medical Baseline customers
- Sonoma County: 38,120 customers, 2,111 Medical Baseline customers
- Stanislaus County: 35 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Tehama County: 9,751 customers, 849 Medical Baseline customers
- Trinity County: 1,406 customers, 76 Medical Baseline customers
- Tuolumne County: 33,271 customers, 2,427 Medical Baseline customers
- Yolo County: 166 customers, 4 Medical Baseline customers
- Yuba County: 5,196 customers, 412 Medical Baseline customers
- Total*: 466,093 customers, 28,895 Medical Baseline customers
*The following Tribal Community counts are included within the County level detail above.
- Big Lagoon Rancheria Tribal Community: 7 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Big Sandy Rancheria Tribal Community: 61 customers, 2 Medical Baseline customers
- Chicken Ranch Rancheria Tribal Community: 0 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Cold Springs Rancheria Of Mono Indians Tribal Community: 0 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Cortina Rancheria Tribal Community: 8 customers, 1 Medical Baseline customer
- Dry Creek Rancheria Tribal Community: 8 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Enterprise Rancheria Of Maidu Indians Tribal Community: 0 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Greenville Rancheria Tribal Community: 34 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Grindstone Rancheria Tribal Community: 49 customers, 3 Medical Baseline customers
- Hoopa Valley Tribe Tribal Community: 1,063 customers, 56 Medical Baseline customers
- Hopland Reservation Tribal Community: 86 customers, 11 Medical Baseline customers
- Jackson Rancheria Tribal Community: 28 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Karuk Tribe Tribal Community: 42 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Middletown Rancheria Tribal Community: 33 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Mooretown Rancheria Tribal Community: 107 customers, 7 Medical Baseline customers
- North Fork Rancheria Tribal Community: 25 customers, 3 Medical Baseline customers
- Picayune Rancheria Tribal Community: 30 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
- Pit River Tribe Tribal Community: Includes customers in Montgomery Creek Rancheria and Roaring Creek Rancheria. We do not have data on customer counts or Medical Baseline customers at this time.
- Robinson Rancheria Tribal Community: 96 customers, 4 Medical Baseline customers
- Round Valley Reservation Tribal Community: 646 customers, 34 Medical Baseline customers
- Sherwood Valley Ranch Tribal Community: 82 customers, 6 Medical Baseline customers
- Shingle Springs Rancheria Tribal Community: 54 customers, 3 Medical Baseline customers
- Stewarts Point Rancher Tribal Community: 22 customers, 2 Medical Baseline customers
- Tuolumne Rancheria Tribal Community: 112 customers, 6 Medical Baseline customers
- Upper Lake Rancheria Tribal Community: 28 customers, 2 Medical Baseline customers
- Yurok Tribe Tribal Community: 87 customers, 4 Medical Baseline customers
Why PG&E Calls a PSPS Event
Due to forecasted extreme weather conditions, PG&E is considering proactively turning off power for safety. Windy conditions, like those being forecast, increase the potential for damage and hazards to PG&E’s electric infrastructure, which could cause sparks if lines are energized. These conditions also increase the potential for rapid fire spread.
“We’re seeing four extremes in the weather for this potential PSPS event: extremely high winds, extremely low humidity, extreme dry fuels due to the hottest average temperatures over the last six months according to records that go back 126 years, and extreme drought across the territory given lack of rainfall,” said PG&E’s Scott Strenfel, head of meteorology and fire science. “While temperatures are expected to drop heading into this event with cold weather expected in some areas, the high winds, low humidity, dry fuels and lack of rainfall continues to result in high fire hazard conditions.”
State officials classify more than half of PG&E’s 70,000-square-mile service area in Northern and Central California as having a high fire threat, given dry grasses and the high volume of dead and dying trees.
The state’s high-risk areas have tripled in size over the last seven years. No single factor drives a PSPS, as each situation is unique. PG&E carefully reviews a combination of many criteria when determining if power should be turned off for safety. These factors generally include, but are not limited to:
- Low humidity levels, generally 20 percent and below
- Forecasted sustained winds generally above 25 mph and wind gusts in excess of approximately 45 mph, depending on location and site-specific conditions such as temperature, terrain and local climate
- A Red Flag Warning declared by the National Weather Service
- Condition of dry fuel on the ground and live vegetation (moisture content)
- On-the-ground, real-time observations from PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Operations Center and observations from PG&E field crews
So far this year, PG&E has called 4 PSPS events, each of which produced safety hazards on our equipment. If PG&E had not de-energized power lines, these types of damage could have caused wildfire ignitions.
Here’s Where to Go to Learn More
- PG&E’s emergency website pge.com/pspsupdates is now available in 13 languages. Currently, the website is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Russian, Vietnamese, Korean, Farsi, Arabic, Hmong, Khmer, Punjabi and Japanese. Customers will have the opportunity to choose their language of preference for viewing the information when visiting the website. In addition, PG&E’s contact center has translation services available in over 200 languages. Customers who need in-language support over the phone can contact us by calling 1-833-208-4167.
- For additional language support services including how to set language preference, select options for obtaining translated notifications, and receive other translated resources on PSPS, customers can visit pge.com/pspslanguagehelp. This website is also available in 13 languages as listed above.
- Customers are encouraged to update their contact information and indicate their preferred language for notifications by visiting pge.com/mywildfirealerts or by calling 1-800-743-5000. PG&E’s contact center has translation services available in over 200 languages.
- Tenants and non-account holders can sign up to receive PSPS ZIP Code Alerts for any area where you do not have a PG&E account by visiting pge.com/pspszipcodealerts.
- PG&E has launched a new tool at its online Safety Action Center at safetyactioncenter.pge.com to help customers prepare. By using the “Make Your Own Emergency Plan” tool and answering a few short questions, visitors to the website can compile and organize the important information needed for a personalized family emergency plan.
Community Resource Centers Reflect COVID-Safety Protocols
PG&E will open Community Resource Centers (CRCs) to support our customers.
The sole purpose of a PSPS is to reduce the risk of major wildfires during severe weather. While a PSPS is an important wildfire safety tool, PG&E understands that losing power disrupts lives, especially for customers sheltering-at-home in response to COVID-19. These temporary CRCs will be open to customers when power is out at their homes and will provide ADA-accessible restrooms and hand-washing stations; medical-equipment charging; Wi-Fi; bottled water; and non-perishable snacks.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all CRCs will follow important health and safety protocols including:
- Facial coverings and maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet from those who are not part of the same household will be required at all CRCs.
- Temperature checks will be administered before entering CRCs that are located indoors.
- CRC staff will be trained in COVID-19 precautions and will regularly sanitize surfaces and use Plexiglass barriers at check-in. All CRCs will follow county and state requirements regarding COVID-19, including limits on the number of customers permitted indoors at any time.
Besides these health protocols, customers visiting a CRC in 2020 will experience further changes, including a different look and feel. In addition to using existing indoor facilities, PG&E is planning to open CRCs at outdoor, open-air sites in some locations and use large commercial vans as CRCs in other locations. CRC format will depend on a number of factors, including input from local and tribal leaders. Supplies also will be handed out in grab-and-go bags at outdoor CRCs so most customers can be on their way quickly.
How Customers Can Prepare for a PSPS
As part of PSPS preparedness efforts, PG&E suggests customers:
- Plan for medical needs like medications that require refrigeration or devices that need power.
- Identify backup charging methods for phones and keep hard copies of emergency numbers.
- Build or restock your emergency kit with flashlights, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.
- Keep in mind family members who are elderly, younger children and pets.
Prevention, Preparedness and Support
It is important that PG&E has your current contact information so you can be notified and better prepared if a wildfire or PSPS event may impact your home or business. To set up your alerts, visit pge.com/alerts.
With the increased wildfire threat our state faces, PG&E is enhancing and expanding our efforts to reduce wildfire risks and keep our customers and communities safe. Our Community Wildfire Safety Program includes short, medium and long-term plans to make our system safer. For tips on how to prepare for emergencies and outages, visit our Safety Action Center at safetyactioncenter.pge.com.
Essentially All Customers Restored from Oct. 21 PSPS Event
PG&E has restored power to essentially all customers who can receive service that were impacted by the PSPS event that started Wednesday evening (Oct. 21). PG&E called the PSPS event due to a high-wind event combined with low humidity and severely dry vegetation, which together created high risk of catastrophic wildfires.
The Oct. 21 PSPS event affected about 31,000 customers in targeted portions of 7 counties with the majority living in Shasta, Butte and Tehama counties.
The top three recorded wind gust speeds from this PSPS event were 56, 55, and 52 mph in Shasta, Contra Costa and Butte counties respectively, with humidity and fuel moisture levels remaining low.
About 2,000 personnel were working on the ground or in 36 helicopters inspecting lines for damage or hazards.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation's cleanest energy to 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.