PG&E says it will shut off power in portions of 34 California counties | TheUnion.com

PG&E says it will shut off power in portions of 34 California counties

PG&E’s Community Resource Center

Where: Sierra College Grass Valley 250 Sierra College Drive, Grass Valley

When: opens 8 a.m.

PG&E will be shutting off power for up to 800,000 customers across portions of northern and central California to avoid a possible wildfire, according to a press release from the utility company.

In Nevada County, 43,217 customers could endure shutoffs in Grass Valley, Nevada City, Penn Valley and nine other regional towns. Another 51,641 PG&E customers in Placer County could also endure the shutoffs, including in Auburn, Colfax, Loomis and several other cities.

The Public Safety Shut Downs, scheduled to start early Wednesday morning, are necessary because of low humidity and dry winds, are anticipated to begin as early this morning and continue for an unknown period of time, PG&E officials said.

The National Weather Service of Sacramento issued a red flag warning from 5 a.m. Wednesday through 5 p.m. Thursday for northern and central California. Only western Nevada County is in the warning area, according to meteorologist Sierra Littlefield.

“It looks like the windier day will be Wednesday evening” and Thursday will be drier, said Littlefield. Humidity will be as low as 10 or 20 percent today, and “breezy conditions” are expected on ridges, according to the meteorologist. On Thursday, winds are predicted to pick up to over 45 mph, mostly extending from the northeast.

Conditions will improve Thursday night and into Friday morning, said Littlefield.

PG&E says it will hope to begin patrolling lines after it has been given the “all-clear” sign, said company spokesperson Brandi Merlo. Due to the conditions, Merlo said patrols may not be able to begin surveying areas until Thursday afternoon.

Mindy Spatt, communications chief for San Francisco-based consumer advocacy group The Utility Reform Network, said power shutoffs create inconveniences, financial losses and are a safety risk for many.

“The burden is very much on consumers here, which doesn’t seem fair,” said Spatt.

Spatt said PG&E has been deemed “criminally negligent” by Cal Fire in June of 2018 (prior to the Camp Fire in Paradise) due to 12 wildfires that killed 18 people and burned hundreds of square miles under its watch. In May, Cal Fire said it determined the Camp Fire was caused by transmission lines owned and operated by PG&E.

Spatt believes PG&E should have been trimming trees around its power lines instead of issuing power shutoffs.

“A fire or a shutoff should not be the only choices available to a customer,” she said.

CONSEQUENCES

Grass Valley’s B&C Ace Home & Garden Center and Hills Flat Lumber Company both reported to have sold out of generators Tuesday as customers prepared for shutoffs.

“We are selling them as fast as they are coming in,” said Art Ralli, a clerk at Hills Flat Lumber.

During the last shutoff in late September, some business owners were upset about their loss in revenue.

If power is shut off at the Rood Administrative Center, Wednesday’s candidate forum between Assembly candidates Elizabeth Betancourt and Megan Dahle will be scheduled for another time, said Janice Bedayn, president of the League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County.

Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay said school administrators called parents Tuesday notifying them of possible school closings for today. The final call for school closures will occur at a conference at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. Notifications about school closings will be on school websites. Parents will also be notified with an automatic call around 6 a.m. Wednesday, if they have the proper operating system, said Lay.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Lay. “It’s unprecedented.”

Lay said if shutoffs do occur today, schools will likely be closed Thursday as well. It’s likely that all Nevada County schools will be affected by the shutoffs, he said.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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