PG&E power outages leave about 400,000 customers without power

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About 400,000 PG&E customers lost power because of high winds between Feb. 9 and 10, but conditions did not meet the threshold for issuing a Public Safety Power Shutoff, or PSPS.

Though the wind speeds were close to those of October 2019, the fuel and soil moisture levels were high enough to lessen potential danger of wildfires, making a PSPS unnecessary, according to a PG&E press release. The outages that occurred were largely due to fallen trees, debris and branches.

“Back in October (2019), it was us proactively shutting off power because we knew a wind event was going to be coming,” said PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian. “That’s why we proactively shut off the power to make sure that our customers and the communities we serve are safe, so it’s really different realms.”

In addition to the National Weather Service advising of strong winds, PG&E meteorologists forecast high wind activity and expected power outages during the weekend, according to the press release. On Feb. 7, PG&E sent out a news release and used social media to inform customers of the weather and provide safety tips.

More than 800 PG&E personnel prepared for and responded to the power outages and damage caused by Sunday’s winds, according to the release. While on the scene, PG&E’s crews found hundreds of fallen power lines and several broken poles.

Additionally, 17 local emergency centers were opened throughout PG&E service areas to ensure efficient responses to emergencies, Sarkissian said in an email.

Although there were no emergency notifications on campus and in the city, Student Affairs officials remarked that the campus-operated apartment building Garden Village lost power on the evening of Feb. 9, with power restored at 3 a.m. Feb. 10, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore

All PG&E customers impacted by the high wind activity had their power restored by Feb. 10, and all associated damage has been fixed, according to Sarkissian.

Unlike last weekend’s power outages, which were caused by winds damaging PG&E infrastructure, the October 2019 power outages were because of a PSPS, Sarkissian said in an email. The strong fall winds coupled with dry conditions met the PG&E criteria to shut off power as a safety precaution to reduce the risk of wildfires.

Compared to October 2019, when PG&E issued power shut-offs, the wind speeds from last weekend were weaker on a macro scale, according to warning coordination meteorologist Brian Garcia.

During the October 2019 PSPS, the same emergency centers that were open to PG&E personnel were available seven days a week for 24 hours a day, Sarkissian said in an email. Additionally, numerous customer resource centers were available in PSPS-affected locations to supply customers with charging stations, snacks and restrooms, among other resources and amenities.

“Wind can be a deadly force wherever encountered, including the Bay Area,” Garcia said in an email. “It’s important to remain weather ready and pay attention to the official forecast from the National Weather Service and any official watches, advisors, or warnings.”

Contact Maxine Mouly at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @moulymaxine.