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Sudden PG&E outages stress west Marin County residents, businesses

Unexpected Pacific Gas and Electric outages intended to help prevent wildfires are causing problems for west Marin County businesses and residents.

PG&E has increased the sensitivity of sensors on some power lines in high fire threat districts. When the sensors note a disturbance on the line, the power is turned off. While the goal is to help prevent wildfires, even a bird or squirrel on the line could deactivate the power lines — and there’s the rub, said Loring Jones, who has owned the Lagunitas Grocery and Deli in Marin County for three years.

Jones said:

“It’s been happening in the last six weeks. The power would just drop off unexpectedly.”

Every time this happens, Jones has to scramble to move food into the walk-in refrigerator and start up his portable generator.

Jones said his worst fear is food spoiling if a power outage happens in the middle of the night while he’s sleeping, adding:

“It’s the same 740 homes and businesses (in the area) who keep getting the power cut off. … It’s been a rough enough year. The last thing we need is for the power to be cut off unexpectedly.” 

Jones said PG&E sent out a postcard in advance “saying they were going to make adjustments,” but no one understood that outages were coming up.

A PG&E spokeswoman said the utility is doing its best to offset negative effects.

Deanna Contreras of PG&E said:

“We recognize the impacts on our customers and we know it is a burden to be without power, and that is why we continue to adjust the sensitivity of these sensors when it is safe to do so. … We have more boots on the ground and helicopters in the air to monitor the power lines. We will continue sending notices to customers about the outages.” 

She said:

“We are doing this because of the extreme drought and the wildfire conditions we have now. These efforts are an extreme measure in response to those conditions.” 

Contreras added:

“We recognize that going without power is a hardship for our customers, but we believe it is necessary for safety and to help prevent wildfires.” 

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