AUBURN, Calif. — PG&E shut off the power to about 24,000 customers across three Northern California counties Monday evening amid windy weather and higher wildfire risk.
PG&E previously warned that the utility may need to cut power to lines across Butte, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sutter, Yuba, Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties.
On Monday, PG&E reduced the shutoff plan to include only customers in Butte, Nevada and Yuba counties.
Impacts by county:
- Butte County: 10,245
- Nevada County: 7,725
- Yuba County: 4,580
Power shutoff began around 5 p.m.
Butte County cities that may be impacted are Bangor, Berry Creek, Brush Creek, Feather Falls, Forbestown, Hurleton, Oroville, Palermo, Rackerby and Yankee Hill
Nevada County cities that may be impacted are Grass Valley, Nevada City, Penn Valley, Rough and Ready.
Yuba County cities that may be impacted are Bangor, Browns Valley, Brownsville, Camptonville, Challenge, Dobbins, Forbestown, Loma Rica, Marysville, Oregon House, Rackerby and Smartville.
“For planning purposes, we suggest customers prepare for multiple-day outages,” PG&E said in a statement.
WHAT LED TO THE POWER SHUTOFF?
The wind, bone dry vegetation and low humidity were three critical factors in PG&E’s decision to shut down power to thousands of people living in the Sierra foothills.
“This is not a decision we take lightly at all,” PG&E spokesperson Brandi Merlo said. “This is something we do when we’re seeing conditions that really threaten the electrical system and threaten our communities and customers.”
With safety as a guideline, PG&E decided to de-energize transmission lines in portions of Nevada, Yuba and Butte counties.
The decision to shut down the power was based on weather conditions, Merlo said.
“We certainly look for gusty winds,” she said. “We look for dry conditions and that heightened fire risk to determine whether we proactively shut the power off for safety.”
WHY WAS THE POWER SHUT OFF?
Public Safety Power Shutoffs are designed to reduce the threat of wildfire that could be sparked by lines brought down in gusting winds.
To help customers through the planned outage, Community Resource Centers have been established across the area.
- Auburn Gold Country Fairgrounds: 303 Sacramento Street, Auburn
- Sierra College Grass Valley Campus: 250 Sierra College Drive, Grass Valley
- Butte County Fire Department Station: 14144 Lakeridge Circle, Magalia
- Harrison Stadium parking lot: Third and Mitchell avenues, Oroville
- Alcouffe Center: 9185 Marysville Road, Oregon House
Customers can access the very latest on the potential power outages and a list of the community resource centers by visiting the Public Safety Power Shutoff updates page.
Officials are also monitoring similar conditions Tuesday and the potential for ongoing outages.
WHEN WILL THE POWER BE TURNED ON?
A PG&E spokesperson said the utility company anticipates the windy and dry weather to pass by around 9 a.m. Tuesday.
After that time and conditions are safe to do so, PG&E crews will conduct safety inspections, complete any needed repairs and begin restoration.
“PG&E crews will work to visually inspect each mile of our power lines to ensure they are free from damage and safe to energize,” the company said.
Officials said PG&E crews can usually restore power within 24 to 48 hours after the dry and windy weather conditions pass.
“However, depending on weather conditions or if any repairs are needed, outages (weather event plus restoration time) could last longer than 48 hours,” PG&E said.
HOW IS CAL FIRE RESPONDING?
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning across the region advising of weather conditions that typically yield easy fire starts and rapid rates of spread.
Cal Fire has ramped up resources for the Red Flag danger forecast, adding extra crews to the front lines, in case a fire does break out.
“So that puts in excess of 200 additional firefighters and hand crew members pre-positioned in strategic areas around Northern California,” Cal Fire Chief Brian Estes said.
The power shutoff could be a preview of things to come.
“September, October and even into November are really our most critical (wildfire) months in Northern California,” Estes said. “That’s when we do get a shift from those southwesterly (winds) to that dry easterly or northerly winds.”
HOW IS THE COMMUNITY REACTING?
Dozens of businesses in the impacted counties could be without power through the night.
“I’ll be working until after five, so I’ll just be here with the lights off I guess,”said Connor Lee, a barista at City Council Coffee in Nevada City.
“I understand the point of the shutoffs,” Lee added. “ I can’t necessarily think of any way around it — so it’s helpful but also a hindrance.”
For many customers, the prospect of losing power came as a real surprise.
“This is the first time that we’ve heard it,” said Nevada City resident Stephen Baker. “I’m very happy that they have this process. It’s for our benefit, for our safety.”
At Nevada City Chocolate Shoppe, customers seemed supportive of PG&E’s decision.
“It’s good to have people aware,” said Nevada City resident Anton Marchi said. “Especially with the new alerts going in and a lot of public safety being talked about is definitely a good precaution.”
Residents and business owners in Penn Valley were frustrated Monday night.
“It’s not the first time, but it is kind of disappointing,” resident Dale Restad said. “I’m just glad they’re doing something.”
His wife Judy Kysor said, “I’m a little frustrated because there’s hardly a breeze.”
“I just don’t think it’s right that they do that to us. We have no recourse against them. They just turn it off and make us deal with it,” said Tack Room Bar and Restaurant owner Barbara Martinez. “I have thousands of dollars in inventory in walk-in freezers, walk in refrigerators that are gonna rot.”