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North Bay braces for another possible power shutoff

Attorneys painted starkly different pictures of PG&E and their oversight over natural gas infrastructure during closing arguments of a federal criminal trial on charges of violating a pipeline safety law.

PG&E said Sunday that an expected high wind event Wednesday could prompt a Public Safety Power Shutoff for some customers in the North Bay, Sierra Foothills and North Valley, but that conditions could change substantially over the next three days, making any hard and fast prediction impossible.

According to a statement from PG&E Sunday:

“Both the forecast and the scope of the weather event remain very fluid three days ahead of the event.”

“At present, projections reflect a possible weather event similar to previous (Public Safety Power Shutoff) events that impacted about 180,000 customers.”

The National Weather Service said Sunday that winds should begin to increase overnight Tuesday, spreading southward over the higher elevations of the North Bay and East Bay around sunrise Wednesday. These north-northeast winds will reach 20 to 30 mph with gusts of 35 to 45 mph expected; local gusts at isolated peaks and ridgetops may approach and possibly exceed 60 mph.

Those winds, combined with humidity readings expected to drop during the day on Wednesday to 10 to 20 percent (and to single-digit percentages in some localized spots), are expected to combine for the kind of fire hazard that prompted a series of PG&E power shutoffs in late October all over the Bay Area, Sierra foothills and other parts of the state.

PG&E said Sunday that, based on customer feedback and internal reviews of how the October power shutoffs went, that a series of safety and response improvements have been made. They include expansion and refinement of the PSPS notification system, upgrades to PG&E’s website and call centers to allow handling of much higher levels of traffic, better quality power outage mapping and improved coordination and communication with PG&E’s government agency partners.

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