Potential Early Monday PSPS Event: Forecasted High Winds and Dry Conditions Mean PG&E Might Need to Proactively Turn Off Power for Safety in Targeted Portions of 15 Counties and Five Tribal Communities

Approximately 130,000 customers who might be affected by the Public Safety Power Shutoff are receiving the initial notifications today, two days ahead of the potential event

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has notified customers in targeted portions of 15 counties and five tribal communities about a potential Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) starting early Monday morning (Dec. 7).  Dry conditions combined with expected high wind gusts pose an increased risk for damage to the electric system that has the potential to ignite fires in areas with dry vegetation.

High fire-risk conditions are expected to arrive late Sunday evening with high winds forecast to continue until into early Monday morning, peaking in strength during the day Monday, and possibly lingering in some regions through early Tuesday. Once the strong winds subside, PG&E crew will patrol the de-energized lines to ensure they were not damaged during the severe weather. PG&E will safely restore power as quickly as possible, with the goal of restoring most customers within 12 daylight hours, based on weather conditions.

While there is still uncertainty regarding the strength and timing of this weather wind event, the shutoff is forecasted to affect approximately 130,000 customers in targeted portions of 15 counties, including Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Lake, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Sierra, Sonoma, Tulare, Tuolumne, and Yuba, as well as five tribal communities.

The highest probability areas for this PSPS are the Sierra foothills; the North Bay mountains and portions of the Central Coast. This is not expected to be a widespread event in the Bay Area at this time.

Potential Public Safety Power Shutoff: What People Should Know

The potential PSPS event is still more than 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.

Potentially Affected Customers

Here is a list of customers by county who could be potentially affected by this PSPS event.

  • Alpine County: 574 customers, 7 Medical Baseline customers
  • Amador County: 9,573 customers, 764 Medical Baseline customers
  • Calaveras County: 10,759 customers, 440 Medical Baseline customers
  • El Dorado County: 35,732 customers, 2,555 Medical Baseline customers
  • Fresno County: 1,292 customers, 74 Medical Baseline customers
  • Lake County: 1,223 customers, 67 Medical Baseline customers
  • Monterey County: 333 customers, 7 Medical Baseline customers
  • Napa County: 6,780 customers, 218 Medical Baseline customers
  • Nevada County: 25,938 customers, 1,509 Medical Baseline customers
  • Placer County: 24,918 customers, 1,586 Medical Baseline customers
  • Sierra County: 1,099 customers, 23 Medical Baseline customers
  • Sonoma County: 1,797 customers, 61 Medical Baseline customers
  • Tulare County: 276 customers, 4 Medical Baseline customers
  • Tuolumne County: 10,114 customers, 573 Medical Baseline customers
  • Yuba County: 312 customers, 40 Medical Baseline customers
  • Total:130,722 customers, 7,928 Medical Baseline customers

*The following Tribal Community counts are included within the County level detail above.

  • Dry Creek Rancheria Tribal community: 8 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
  • Jackson Rancheria Tribal community: 28 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
  • Middletown Rancheria Tribal community: 8 customers, 0 Medical Baseline customers
  • Shingle Springs Rancheria Tribal community: 49 customers, 2 Medical Baseline customers
  • Tuolumne Tribal community: 100 customers, 5 Medical Baseline customers

Why PG&E Calls a PSPS Event

When extreme weather conditions are forecasted, PG&E considers proactively turning off power for safety, as such weather conditions 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.

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 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

Improved Watch and Warning Notifications

In response to customer feedback requesting more timely information to prepare for a potential PSPS event, PG&E will provide improved Watch and Warning notifications this year.  

Whenever possible, an initial Watch notification will be sent two days in advance of a potential PSPS event. One day before the potential PSPS event, an additional Watch notification will go out, notifying customers of the possibility of a PSPS event in their area based on forecasted conditions.

A PSPS Watch will be upgraded to a Warning when forecasted conditions show that a safety shutoff will be needed. Whenever possible, Warning notifications will be sent approximately four to 12 hours in advance of the power being shut off. 

Both Watch and Warning notifications are directly tied to the weather forecast, which can change rapidly.

As an example of how notifications have been improved in 2020, customers will see the date and time when power is estimated to be shut off as well as the estimated time for restoration.  These notifications will be provided two days before the power goes out. Last year, the estimated time of restoration was not provided until after the power had been turned off.

Outage and Backup Power Safety

While backup power can be helpful during an outage, it can also pose safety hazards when not used correctly. Improper use can risk damage to your property, or endanger the lives of you, your family, or PG&E crews who may be working to restore power.

If you have a stand-by generator, make sure that it’s installed safely and inform PG&E to avoid risking damage to your property and endangering PG&E workers. Information on the safe installation of generators can be found on our website at www.pge.com/generator.   

Here’s Where to Go to Learn More

  • PG&E’s emergency website (pge.com/pspsupdates) is now available in 13 languages: 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.
  • Customers are strongly 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, where in-language support is available.
  • 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(safetyactioncenter.pge.com) to help customers prepare for emergencies. 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. This includes phone numbers, escape routes and a family meeting location if an evacuation is necessary.

Smaller, Shorter, Smarter PSPS events

Learning from past PSPS events, PG&E has been making events smaller in size, shorter in length and smarter for customers in 2020.

  • Smaller in Size: Our goal this year was to reduce the number of customers affected by a PSPS event by one-third compared to last year. Through the first five PSPS events in 2020, there was an average 55% reduction of customers impacted compared to 2019. The size of each event was decreased, keeping hundreds of thousands of customers energized, as a result of using better weather monitoring data and technology that allowed more granular decisions; installing more than 600 sectionalizing devices to shut off power to smaller groups of customers; and installing microgrids and temporary generation to keep the lights on in key locations
  • Shorter in Length: This year, during PSPS events in September and October, the amount of time that customers were without power decreased as restoration times were reduced by over 40% compared to 2019. This happened by nearly (from 35 to 65) doubling our exclusive helicopter fleet and utilizing airplanes with infrared cameras capable of inspecting at night; deploying more PG&E crews for inspections and restoration efforts; inspections as needed. We did not utilize any mutual aid this year.
  • Smarter for Customers: No doubt, PSPS events are a hardship on our customers. This year, PG&E has been providing better information and resources to customers and communities before, during and after events. This work included providing customer alerts with information about when power will be turned back on; opening Community Resource Centers (CRC) to support customers without power; partnering with the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) and other community-based organizations (CBO) to assist the disabled and aging populations by providing food loss replacement meals and a new battery program; providing a website with higher bandwidth and emergency information in 13 languages; adding a social media morning video event update in multiple languages for our largest PSPS event this year; and distributing regular news releases and social media posts.

Community Resource Centers Reflect COVID-Safety Protocols

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.

During PSPS events, PG&E opens temporary Community Resource Centers (CRCs) to support our customers. These temporary CRCs are open to customers when power is out at their homes and 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 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 are required at all CRCs.
  • Temperature checks are administered before entering CRCs that are located indoors.
  • CRC staff are trained in COVID-19 precautions and regularly sanitize surfaces and use Plexiglass barriers at check-in.
  • All CRCs follow county and state requirements regarding COVID-19, including limits on the number of customers permitted indoors at any time.

PG&E’s CRCs in 2020 have been improved from those in 2019. In addition to using existing indoor facilities, PG&E’s CRCs include outdoor, open-air sites in some locations and large commercial vans in other locations. CRC format will depend on a number of factors, including input from local and tribal leaders. Supplies are handed out in grab-and-go bags at outdoor CRCs so most customers can be on their way quickly.

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