PG&E Power Shutoffs Could Impact 30,000 Customers in Bay Area

KCBS Radio Morning News
November 20, 2019 - 10:53 am
: The Sebastiani Theatre and much of downtown remained dark on October 10, 2019 in Sonoma, California. Power outages were scheduled as preemptive moves by PG&E to address hot, dry and windy weather and the risk of wildfires, according to the company.

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Pacific Gas & Electric has again preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of Californians, in an attempt to reduce fire danger from its equipment during windy and dry weather. 

The for-profit utility cut says an estimated 150,000 customers in 18 counties could be impacted, which includes nearly 30,000 customers in Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties in the North Bay. It’s PG&E’s fifth intentional outage of the fire season. 

It’s important to note that PG&E measures the number affected in customers, or meters, such as a single-family dwelling or a business. Some estimates suggest that for every one customer listed, another two or more people are affected. 

In the North Bay, Sonoma County has the most customers who could potentially be impacted: 19,265. They’re spread out across Calistoga, Camp Meeker, Cazadero, Cloverdale, Duncans Mills, Forestville, Geyserville, Glen Ellen, Guerneville, Healdsburg, Jenner, Kenwood, Monte Rio, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rio Nido, Santa Rosa, Sebastapol, Sonoma, Villa Grande, and Windsor.

Earlier this week, Sonoma County residents and business owners told KCBS that the frequent shutoffs are impacting their businesses, making them question if remaining in California is a viable option in the future. 

This morning, KCBS’ Jeffrey Schaub, while reporting from the Sonoma County Emergency Operations Center, spoke with Sonoma County Board of Supervisors President David Rabbitt. He said as of 10 a.m., there were 6,828 customers affected, which translated to about 16,000 people.

So far, it's far fewer people than originally anticipated, but PG&E's website says more shutoffs could be impacting Sonoma County starting at 4 p.m.

“It is good news,” Rabbitt said. “Obviously, if people’s power stays on, it’s a good thing. What’s frustrating is that it’s a very fluid situation and it changes by the minute.”

Rabbitt said the longer the power stays on the better, considering the number of people who rely on power out of medical necessity. PG&E estimates 634 customers in Sonoma County need power for their medical needs. 

The County of Sonoma says PG&E has four Community Resource Centers that will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the power shutoff. A full list of those centers in impacted area is available on PG&E’s website.

In Napa County, PG&E says 10,434 customers may be affected in the areas of Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Lake Berryessa, Napa, Oakville, Pope Valley, Rutherford, Saint Helena, and Yountville. PG&E estimates some 206 people there have medical necessities that require power. 

Only 81 customers are impacted in Solano County, including Fairfield, Vacaville, and Winters, none of which reportedly require power for medical devices.

At one point, PG&E warned the intended blackout would affect a much larger area that included parts of eight of the nine Bay Area counties, with San Francisco being the only exception.

Yesterday, citing changing weather patterns, PG&E announced the shutoffs would impact half of the number of customers and would focus on the North Bay, Sierra Foothills, and the North Valley. 

Earlier this week, as PG&E was announcing the current shutoff, state lawmakers chastised the for-profit utility for neglecting needed repairs to its aging power lines, as well as bungling the first few rounds of shutoffs.

During the first shutdown, PG&E’s website crashed, leaving many people unable to find out of their homes or businesses would be without power and for how long. 

Written by Brian Krans.