High fire danger could prompt proactive power outages this weekend in parts of Nevada County | TheUnion.com

High fire danger could prompt proactive power outages this weekend in parts of Nevada County

Red flag warnings — and possible PG&E power outages — are on tap for parts of western Nevada County.

On Friday morning, the National Weather Service issued red flag warnings for a wide swath of the Central Valley, from Redding through Sacramento down to Modesto. The area impacted includes the far western part of Nevada County, and well as the western half of Placer County and Sutter County, from Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon.

North winds are expected between 20-30 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph. It will be dry, with daytime humidity levels of 10-20% and moderate recovery overnight.

PG&E said it might proactively turn power off for safety in several Northern California counties within the next 18 to 36 hours.

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“To help reduce the risk of wildfire and keep our customers, their families and their homes and businesses safe, the company may be turning off power in areas of the North Bay and the Sierra foothills where extreme fire risks exist,” PG&E’s Brandi Merlo said in a press release.

PG&E is working directly with state and local agencies to prepare for this potential safety event, Merlo said.

For the Sierra foothills, there is the potential for a shutoff affecting about 21,000 customers starting around 9 p.m. Saturday, with the peak period of fire risk until 10 a.m. Sunday.

Areas where power might be shut off in Nevada County include portions of Lake of the Pines, Grass Valley, Rough and Ready, and Penn Valley, Merlo said, adding she could not be more specific. In Yuba County, the shut-off could affect portions of Smartsville, Browns Valley and Oregon House.

According to the release, PG&E reviews a combination of many criteria when determining if power should be turned off for safety. These factors include a red flag warning declared by the National Weather Service; low humidity levels, generally 20% and below; forecasted sustained winds generally above 25 mph and wind gusts in excess of approximately 45 mph; dry fuel on the ground and live vegetation; and on-the-ground, real-time observations from PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Operations Center and PG&E field crews.


PG&E asks customers to update their contact information at pge.com/mywildfirealerts or by calling 1-866-743-6589 during normal business hours. It also recommends planning for medical needs like medications that require refrigeration or devices that need power and identifying backup charging methods for phones and keeping hard copies of emergency numbers.

The Nevada County Office of Emergency Services issued a list of precautions to take in case of a possible power shut-off. These include stocking up on food, lighting, water and charged batteries that will last for several days; knowing how to open your garage if power is unavailable; and making sure you have a full tank of gas. Because of the red flag warning, residents should be prepared to evacuate if necessary.

After the extreme weather has passed, PG&E crews will work to visually inspect each mile of the impacted power lines to ensure they are free from damage and safe to energize, Merlo said.

Inspections will take place during daylight hours and, in most cases, PG&E expects to be able to restore power within 24 to 48 hours after extreme weather has passed. However, outages could last longer than 48 hours. For planning purposes, PG&E suggests customers prepare for multiple-day outages.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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