Public Safety Power Shutoff in Nevada County could start Wednesday afternoon |

Public Safety Power Shutoff in Nevada County could start Wednesday afternoon

The potential Public Safety Power Shutoff would affect some 200,000 PG&E customers.

Will they or won’t they — that’s the question on everyone’s minds, as word of another PG&E shutoff swirled through Nevada County.

At a Monday evening briefing hosted by PG&E’s top officials, the answer remained in the air. But if the shutoff does happen, it likely would start mid-afternoon Wednesday with a target time of 5 p.m., PG&E officials said.

Earlier Monday, PG&E issued a Public Safety Power Shutoff Watch for Nevada County and surrounding areas due to wind forecasts for Wednesday and Thursday.

PG&E estimates 37,000 customers in Nevada County will be impacted if a shutoff is initiated, according to a release from the Nevada County Office of Emergency Services. Statewide, the shutoff would affect 16 counties in the Sierra Foothills and the North Bay, and could impact as many as 209,000 customers, PG&E spokeswoman Mayra Tostado said.

A shutoff this week would fall on the heels of an outage implemented earlier this month by PG&E that affected thousands of customers in western Nevada County.

Monday afternoon, PG&E customers in the area began getting notifications via email, text or phone call that they might be affected by the shutoff. The map posted on PG&E’s website shows most of western Nevada County would potentially be affected.

Another notification would go out 24 hours beforehand, Tostado said.

During the press briefing Monday, Director of Wildfire Operations Mark Quinlan said high winds are forecast to start around 5 p.m. Wednesday for the Sierra foothills.

“We need time to de-energize the system, so we will start before then,” he said, “Eight to 12 hours beforehand is when we will make a final notification, so Wednesday morning, and we’ll start de-energizing around 2 p.m.”

PG&E CEO Bill Johnson stressed the situation is fluid.

“We will continue to monitor and update customers accordingly,” he said. “Over the next day or so, we will determine where and if we will turn off power.”

The wind event is forecast to begin Wednesday, growing stronger that night and continuing into Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Strong winds are forecast to continue into Friday morning, but weaken for other areas.

“The primary focus for strong winds will be in the mid-elevations and foothills in the Sierra,” PG&E’s website stated. “Please note PSPS decisions are made at a much more granular level than zone.”

The National Weather Service on Monday issued a Fire Weather Watch for most of western Nevada County from 5 a.m. Wednesday through 4 p.m. Thursday.

A weather system digging into the Great Basin region will create gusty north to east winds over portions of interior Northern California Wednesday and Thursday, the weather service stated. Daytime minimum relative humidity values will be very low along with extremely poor overnight recoveries Wednesday night. These will lead to critical fire weather conditions.

Locally, wind gusts up to 20 to 25 mph in Grass Valley are expected, with humidity dropping to 20% by Thursday. The projected high is 78 degrees in Grass Valley, for both Wednesday and Thursday, according to the weather service.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4236.

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