Editor’s note: This story is developing quickly and being constantly updated. Please come back for more information later, and scroll down to see the original reporting.
8:46 p.m. — Here is the latest from the County of Mendocino:
Ukiah, California: October 8, 2019
Potential PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff Update 2
The County of Mendocino has been continually monitoring the scope of the upcoming Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event scheduled for our area.
At this time, effected [sic] areas have been indentified as being:
Redwood Valley, Potter Valley, Hopland, portions of the unincorporated areas of the Ukiah Valley, 62 PG&E service points in the Willits area (unknown locations at this time), Leggett, Piercy, Whitethorn and Whale Gulch.
It is anticipated that approximately 88% of PG&E customers in these areas will begin losing power at midnight tonight (10/08/2019).
At this time the, unaffected areas have been indentified [sic] as being:
City of Ukiah, City of Fort Bragg, City of Point Arena, entire unincorporated Mendocino County coastal communities.
The Mendocino County Office of Emergency Services is currently aware of sporadic power outages in Potter Valley, but according to PG&E representatives, the power outages are not connected to the PSPS and attempts to restore services are underway.
Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) Resources: PG&E Community Resource Center (CRC) – 1775 N State St, Ukiah CA 95482 (anticipated to open at 8:00 am on 10/9) PSPS Service Impact Map – https://www.pge.com/en_US/safety/emergency-preparedness/natural-disaster/wildfires/psps-service- impact-map.page PG&E Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pacificgasandelectric/ PG&E Twitter – https://twitter.com/PGE4Me PG&E – 1-800-743-5009 PSPS Information and Local Resources – https://www.mendocinocounty.org/community/public-safety- power-shutoff Mendocino County Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/mendocinocounty Mendocino County Twitter – @countymendocino Mendocino County Instagram – @countyofmendocino Mendocino County Sheriff Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MendocinoSheriff City of Ukiah PSPS Outage/Electrical Outage Lines – 463-6288/463-6228 City of Ukiah Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/cityofukiah
For more information, please contact the Executive Office at 707-463-4441.
501 Low Gap Rd, Rm 1010 Office: 707-463-4441 Ukiah, CA 95482-3734 Fax: 707-463-5649County of Mendocino
UPDATE 8:39 p.m. — Report are coming out of Potter Valley that power shut-offs have begun there, affecting mostly the western and northern sides of the valley. However, the County of Mendocino has issued a press release saying that those outages are somehow unrelated to the larger planned outage. We don’t know what this means.
Has the power gone off where you are? If so, please tell us in the comments or on Facebook.
In Ukiah, although there is currently no plan for shut-offs within the municipal grid, there are long lines and increasingly empty shelves at local stores and gas stations. The City of Willits also is not scheduled to have the power go out, though some customers outside city limits, with Willits addresses, might lose power.
UPDATE 4:20 p.m. — PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras just informed us that the following locations are now on the list for a power outage starting shortly after midnight tonight. But first she assured us that Fort Bragg and Willits will not experience planned outages. As the City of Ukiah pointed out, the extreme weather could cause unplanned outages and everyone should be prepared. Others have noted that depending on what areas are turned off, areas that still nominally have power could experience rolling blackouts due to strain on the grid.
According to Contreras the towns in our area that will be shut off are: Potter Valley, Redwood Valley, Calpella, Boonville, Talmage, Hopland, Cloverdale, Garberville, Leggett, Piercy, Westport, Calpella, and areas immediately adjacent to Ukiah (often with a Ukiah mailing address) which are not on the Ukiah municipal grid.
She stated that 6476 customers will have their power intentionally shut-off, and that they should already have been individually contacted to be given warning.
She added that the outage will not happen all at once, but will travel down the state, from north to south, in advance of the weather.
UPDATE 4:00 p.m. — The City of Ukiah has announced that they do not expect to be affected by the planned power shut-off that PG&E is conduction tonight. The City runs its own municipal grid, but does receive power from PG&E via transmission lines. At this time it does not appear that those lines will have to be de-energized. However, they caution that the extreme weather event could cause unplanned outages nonetheless, and that everyone should be prepared. (Read the full statement here)
Also, we spoke the Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools, Michelle Hutchins, who gave us a list of how the various school districts in the county will be dealing with the outage. She stressed that the information she gave is not the final word and that each case parents should take their local school district’s announcements as the authority. However, her office has polled the various districts and here is a list:
- Anderson Valley Schools will close if the power is off
- Point Arena and Point Arena Joint Union will close if the power is off
- Fort Bragg schools will close if the power is off
- Laytonville will try to remain open even if the power is off
- Leggett Valley will close if the power is off
- Manchester Unified School District will close if the power is off
- Mendocino Unified School District will close if the power is off
- Potter Valley Community Unified will be open for day one of the outage and make a decision
- Round Valley schools will close if the power is off
- Ukiah Unified School District will monitor the situation and make a call when it’s clear if the power will go ff
- Willits Unified School District will close if the power is off
The Mendocino County Office of Education operates fours schools
- The Talmage preschool will close if the power is off
- Orr Creek School, Mendocino Community School and Early Start will take their cue from Ukiah High School, so if Ukiah High is open so will they be.
And, though this is probably obviously, the National Weather Service office in Eureka declared a red flag warning in Eureka a few hours ago. The best place to see a detailed map of that is at this link. Parts of Humboldt are getting a double whammy of a red flag warning and a frost warning. Here is a screenshot of that map:
Cal Fire is staffing up across the state and is predicting that this could be the strongest offshore wind event of the season. These warm, fast, dry winds blowing from the east and north have historically resulted in some of the worst fires in California.
Sacramento – CAL FIRE firefighters are staffing up and preparing for the forecasted extreme fire weather across California. The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings and fire weather watches for areas of northern, central and southern California. This will likely be the strongest offshore wind event so far this season.
“With some of the most destructive and deadliest fires occurring October through December, we need Californians to not be complacent. Wind driven fires move fast, and residents need to be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice in the event of a wildfire,” said Chief Thom Porter, CAL FIRE director. “We have increased our staffing, but need the public to remain vigilant. It is important to follow evacuation orders and leave early as fires move very fast under these conditions.”Cal Fire
UPDATE 2:15 p.m. — We’re giving you the information as quickly as it’s coming in, so to all you loyal supportive readers, please bear with us. Supervisor Ted Williams has posted on Facebook with more information, some of it slightly different than what the county put out, but more details. The bottom line is that PG&E has not been communicating clearly with public officials, and it’s unclear whether PG&E knows exactly what they’re going to do, or if they are also improvising as weather forecasts shift.
The gist of what Williams says is broadly similar to the County’s press release, though he notes that the situation in Willits proper remains very muddy, and Willits may lose power. The Little Lake Valley’s power is fed by two transmission lines, one following roughly the route of U.S. Route 101 and the other Tomki Rd., up to Pine Mountain. This means that different sections of Willits get their power from different transmission lines. The eastern line passing through Redwood Valley will almost certainly be de-energized.
Fore all the details keep scrolling down.
Here’s what Williams has to say:
Ted’s understanding of PG&E PSPS status: We are continuing to head towards a power safety shutoff. The shut offs will start from the north and work south as the wind event comes on land from the north and moves south through the state. There are now three planned phases. Kern county was added as phase III. Notices went out to many Mendocino operational units. We’ll go dark in the first phase, which starts at midnight.
The county is ready to open up call center at 5am. 707 467 6428. The County’s Emergency Communication Center will open at 5am. CEO’s office and Sheriff are coordinating public information with cities. The outages are expected to impact 790k people with additional of Kern. PG&E is updating mapping. They are aware their website is broken. They’re working to bring it back online. If they cannot, they’ll send a rep to each operational area (not clear on how this will help with outreach). PG&E anticipates 500k people in the first phase. Additional helicopters have been brought in to examine infrastructure once the wind event has passed. This will help reduce time before reenergizing lines.
Transmission lines to the City of Ukiah are not currently included in the outage. Fort Bragg and Willits have been receiving notices of pending outage. The County is working to clarify. Point Arena and Gualala are believed to not be included in outage. There will be instability in the system as PG&E manages shutoff (everyone should prepare). Partial transmission could cause rolling outages through management. Wind damage to infrastructure should be reported to PG&E as always. Do not approach or drive over downed lines.
The City of Willits is still concerned about ambiguity in whether the city will be shut off — they don’t yet know for certain. Willits suggest monitoring the city website for updates. The County believes Willits will not be included. City of Fort Bragg does not believe the city will be included, but is awaiting a press release from PG&E for confirmation.
City of Point Arena is suffering similar confusing, because PG&E has said “yes” and “no”. The County believes Point Arena will not be included. The current map does not show Anderson Valley or Yorkville included in outage. Hopland is sending a large strike team of engines to Lake County. CalFire is staffing up additional engines. Schools without electricity will close. Those waking up with electricity should assume school is closed. City of Ukiah will have uninterrupted water. Ukiah Sanitation District will also run uninterrupted. Phase I is expected to go dark between midnight and Wednesday morning. We anticipate restore time after the wind event to be 12-24 hours best case, 5 days worst case.Ted Williams, District 5
The County’s executive office is working on clarification of unincorporated towns.
UPDATE 1:40 p.m. — Well news develops quickly sometimes, and just as this author updated this article, another press release came into his inbox, this one from the County of Mendocino with a few more details (the MCSO has sent out the same press release).
The County is saying that, “Please note that although the incorporated City of Ukiah, and the areas in and around Willits and Fort Bragg are not expected to be de-energized at this time, residents are still strongly encouraged to continue to prepare for an outage.” The planned outage is expected to begin just after midnight tonight, and continue until noon Thursday. It might then be several days after that before power is full restored.
PG&E will be setting up a “community resource center” in Ukiah.
Here is the full press release with maps below that:
Ukiah, California: October 8, 2019
Potential PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff Updates
The County of Mendocino has been continually monitoring the scope of the upcoming Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event scheduled for our area. At this time, effected areas are outlined in the attached map. Please note that although the incorporated City of Ukiah, and the areas in and around Willits and Fort Bragg are not expected to be de-energized at this time, residents are still strongly encouraged to continue to prepare for an outage. To determine if your specific address is within the effected area, please refer to the PG&E Service Impact Map located on the website listed below. This information continues to evolve and could change prior to the scheduled event.
The potential power shut off will begin on Wednesday, October 9 at 12:00 am , through Thursday, October 10 at 12:00 pm. Residents should be aware that at the conclusion of the shut-off, it could take several days for power lines to be re-energized.
PG&E will be opening a Community Resource Center (CRC) at 1775 N. State St in Ukiah on Wednesday, October 9. Hours of operation will be from 8:00 am through 6:00 pm. An informational flyer will be attached to this release.
Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) Resources: PG&E Community Resource Center (CRC) – 1775 N State St, Ukiah CA 95482 (anticipated to open at 8:00 am on 10/9) PSPS Service Impact Map – https://www.pge.com/en_US/safety/emergency-preparedness/natural-disaster/wildfires/psps-service- impact-map.page PG&E Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pacificgasandelectric/ PG&E Twitter – https://twitter.com/PGE4Me PG&E – 1-800-743-5009 PSPS Information and Local Resources – https://www.mendocinocounty.org/community/public- safety-power-shutoff Mendocino County Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/mendocinocounty Mendocino County Twitter – @countymendocino Mendocino County Instagram – @countyofmendocino Mendocino County Sheriff Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MendocinoSheriff City of Ukiah PSPS Outage/Electrical Outage Lines – 463-6288/463-6228 City of Ukiah Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/cityofukiahCounty of Mendocino County
Also yesterday Debbie Bryant, chair of the IHSS Advisory Committee for Mendoicnou County made this statement:
This is Debbie Bryant, Chair of the IHSS Advisory Committee for Mendocino County.
There is a high potential that the electricity will be shut off for Mendocino County starting Wednesday morning. Please make sure that you and your clients have enough food, etc., to last 5 to 7 days. Also make sure of the toiletries, medications or any other needs to get all of you through those days the electricity may be shut off.
UPDATE 1:30 p.m. — Pacific Gas & Electric issued a press released just minutes ago, explaining that the number of counties affected by the scheduled planned outage has expanded to 34, and will now include Humboldt, Trinity, Marin and Kern. They however have not offered additional insight into the specific areas of Mendocino County that will be affected.
According to their website (which you can see here), which was updated at 1 p.m., 6000 remains the number of customers that will be affected by the outage in Mendocino, with the important caveat that all of Ukiah is one customer. This number has not changed since it was first announced but the number of towns affected has increased, and the inclusion of Humboldt and Trinity counties seems to indicate that they perceive the risk to be even higher. The towns listed are: Ukiah, Potter Valley, Hopland, Redwood Valley, Willits, Boonville, Calpella, Talmage, Fort Bragg.
We discussed in the earlier portion of this article why the inclusion of Willits, Fort Bragg, and Boonville might be an exaggeration. Basically, it might just be outlying areas near there with mailing addresses listed in those towns that are affected. But we don’t actually know. It is unclear if PG&E has simply not yet made a decision, or if they are not communicating clearly.
Multiple public officials have complained both in public and in private about the lack of clear information, and the fact that they continue to hear information that appears to contradict earlier information. Said Mendocino County Supervisor Ted Williams in a Facebook post:
PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff update coming this afternoon. Apparently previous releases contained erroneous data (including cities — how do you get that wrong)? Fort Bragg, Boonville, Talmage and Willits were previously included in error. The PSPS website isn’t handling load. No confidence.Ted Williams
A fire official, explained, “You’re only as good as the information that you’re given…and right now everyone is in a holding pattern.”
MENDOCINO Co., 10/8/19 — By now everyone remotely aware of the news in Northern California knows that Pacific Gas & Electric plans to shut off the lights — probably tonight, and in vast areas of NorCal, affecting potentially millions of people. To our knowledge an intentional power outage of this size, which PG&E calls “public safety power shut-offs,” has not been preformed in California since the advent of the modern power-grid.
As of time of publication it still remains unclear exactly what areas are supposed to be blackouted tonight, and PG&E’s online map (which you can see here) is not substantially changed from what it was yesterday. Late last night PG&E provided a list of affected towns, both via press release and on their website (read our last article here), which included Willits, Boonville, and Fort Bragg. Undersheriff Kendall explained today that the inclusion of those towns is likely due to the fact that rural, outlying areas which nonetheless have those towns in their mailing address, might be affected. Said Kendall, “I am doubting that the entire towns of Willits, [Boonville], and Fort Bragg will be included.”
PG&E still maintains that it will be shutting off power to roughly 6000 customers in Mendocino County, with the important caveat that the whole of Ukiah is considered one customer, due to its having an independent municipal power-gird, that is fed by PG&E transmission lines. An updated is expected around noon today.
The blackouts are happening because of an extreme fire weather event, which is predicted to begin tonight, bringing extremely fast gusting winds, perhaps up to 60 mph in the North Bay and sections of the North Coast, and low relative humidity, drying out vegetation. These conditions are the kind that set of the disastrous Redwood Fire exactly two years ago tonight, making today a grim anniversary on which to hold this massive blackout.
And the real question facing Northern California tonight is how strong and dry these winds will be. PG&E is preemptively shutting the power off in many places, but winds could destroy power lines in other areas, or a fire could interrupt power as well, as happened both two years ago, and one year ago during the Ranch Fire. With all the preparation underway mother nature remains the deciding factor how tonight will unfold, and neither PG&E nor local governments can give absolute assurances about what will happen.
Because of course, while power lines caused many of the fires of the last two years, fires can start from many different sources, and Kendall urged everyone to be cautious during this wind event, noting that it is hunting season up north and a camp stove could send off a spark, or for that matter a car could, as is often the case along the 101 corridor.
Public officials have done much to prepare for the outage; Adventist Health has announced that hospitals in Ukiah and Willits both have back up generators, as do many other critical institutions, such as various fire departments. And in a brief interview Mendocino Undersheriff Matt Kendall explained that the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office will be ramping up staffing of deputies and dispatchers tonight. He emphasized that deputies will be out in neighborhoods, saying “We’ve ramped up patrols because everybody understands that if communications fail we want to have deputy sheriffs out there answering questions.”
Kendall added, “One of the biggest concerns of Sheriff Allman, basically…he says, this is almost the exact same date as the Oct. 2017 fires, and so when the power goes out there are going to probably a lot of people with a lot of, for lack of a better word, fire PTSD.”
For the most detailed maps of the weather event check out this interactive maps from the National Weather Service (NWS). Here is our region. As you can see, the Bay Area from the Sonoma County line all the way down to around Gilroy is under a red flag warning. In contrast areas of the North Coast, including Mendo, and inland areas of Lake County and the Sacramento Valley remain under a less severe “fire weather watch,” at this time:
What’s more Humboldt County officials have also warned that the outage might affect their area as well:
Here is a revised wind forecast for Northern California from NWS Sacramento. Bear in mind that PG&E has maintained all long that power shut-offs may not correspond to areas of truly critical fire weather. If high transmission lines pass through areas with a high fire risk, they may have to be de energized, leaving communities downstream, but not in a windy area, also without power:
Yet another red flag warning in the Bay:
You can also listen to an interview conducted by our colleagues at KZYX, with Sheriff Tom Allman here: https://www.kzyx.org/post/sheriff-tom-allman-provides-update-public-safety-power-shutoff-psps-1072019-300-pm?fbclid=IwAR1w8pT5AHGzcEAxGVqWStN34EBqxEYmPJjtGaEOHvesaMcG6gUrztMghdE#stream/0
Here is a statement made by Adventist Health concerning hospitals in Ukiah and Willits:
PG&E has announced a potential power safety shutoff starting very early on Wednesday, October 9th.Adventist Health
Rest assured, our team is ready and we are in the process of implementing our procedures that we have been putting in place all summer.
In the event that PG&E actually DOES shut the power off, the hospital has backup power generators ready to go and we will continue to care for our community.
Our Emergency Department, Mother and Baby Unit, Medical Surgical and Intensive Care teams will continue to meet the needs of all who are in need of inpatient and immediate care. However, elective surgeries (e.g., knee replacement, etc) will be postponed and our clinic and physician offices will be closed in the event of a power shutoff. If the power is off, the closed clinics include medical offices located on Hospital Drive and our clinics on South Dora Street including our Outpatient Rehab (Speech and Physical Therapy) and on 1050 North State Street.
If we have to reschedule your clinic appointment or surgical procedure, our team will reach out to you and let you know.
We are working closely with our community partners and will continue monitoring all information from PG&E as well as our local emergency response team and will continue to update you as we know more. This situation is evolving and things can change rapidly.
At this time, make sure to prepare yourself and your household in the event of a power shutoff. Gas up your vehicles, have cash on hand, have adequate water and non-perishable foods, make sure prescriptions are filled, and make sure you have a plan for backup power for medical devices such as ventilators, etc.
We will update you as we know more. Please help us share this widely.
Here is yesterday’s reporting: