Editor’s note: This is a developing situation and we will continue to update this article throughout the day, so that you can find all the relevant information in one place. There is more information at the bottom of the article. To see the original article scroll down or click here.
UPDATE 3:30 p.m. — Here’s our latest:
UPDATE 12:55 p.m. — Local public officials, CalOES and PG&E are currently on a conference call in which PG&E is detailing what their plans are in terms of the planned power outages. At least 500,000 customers are expected to lose power in NorCal, potentially affecting millions of people.
In a brief interview Supervisor Ted Williams stated that they plan to cut power to 6000 customers in Mendocino County, but that because it maintains its own power grid, the entirety of Ukiah is considered one customer. PG&E reckons things by “customer,” and that could mean a home, a store, a factory, or even an entire city.
Here is what Williams posted on Facebook not long ago, with more information. We should have more details within an hour; additional maps of the shutdown areas should also be available soon.
Here’s Williams’ post:
Mendocino County OES was informed on the evening of 10/6 of an upcoming PSPS event due to severe winds that are forecasted to effect the county. PG&E is holding multiple PSPS operational briefings with OES from all effected counties, the most recent occurred at 8:30 am today. There are 2 more briefings scheduled for 12:30 pm and 5:30 pm today. Below is the most recent information Mendocino County OES has received. OES will continue to keep you updated throughout this event.
* Severe 2 phase windstorm forecasted
– Phase 1: 10/9/19
4 am-6 pm
winds 35-50 mph gusts 55-65 mph
– Phase 2: 10/9/19-10/10-19
5pm Wed-12 pm Thurs
winds 40-50 mph gusts 60-70 mph
* 29 counties effected
* 200k customers will lose power during phase 1
* 500k customers will lose power during phase 2
Mendocino County Specific Info
* 6000 customers will lose power beginning 10/9/19 (200 of those are medical baseline customers). We do not know have specific location information at this time. PG&E will be sending out maps later today.
* PG&E said they will begin notifying customers today of the PSPS event
Note: Although it is estimated at this time that 6,000 Mendocino County PGE customers will be impacted, this number may be low given the City of Ukiah, for example, is considered one “customer”.
UPDATE 11:15 a.m. — The City of Ukiah, which manages its own power grid, made the following announcement earlier today. It should be noted that while Ukiah manages its own electrical infrastructure within city limits, it still receives power from PG&E over their high powered transmission lines and so is still subject to their decisions concerning planned power outages.
In addition, PG&E has sent out a press release substantially confirming the statements made in the Facebook Live video posted by Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin yesterday evening, which are reported below.
City of Ukiah:
PG&E ANNOUNCES POTENTIAL PSPS EVENT FOR MENDOCINO COUNTY
10:06 a.m., October 7, 2019. – City of Ukiah residents are advised to prepare for a potential PSPS event. A “fire weather watch” has been issued for Mendocino County due to high temperatures, strong winds, and low humidity, and PG&E has advised the County of Mendocino that there may be a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event beginning Wednesday, October 9th and extending through Thursday, October 10th.
At this time, we don’t have confirmation of the extent of the outages and/or if City of Ukiah electric customers will be affected. Additionally, although the weather event is not expected to extend beyond Thursday afternoon, PG&E is advising customers to prepare for outages that may last up to five days.
The City of Ukiah is monitoring the situation and will notify the community immediately of any updates and if the PSPS event will impact City of Ukiah electric customers.
For more info about how to be prepared for a power outage, see http://www.cityofukiah.com/psps/.City of Ukiah
WILLITS, 10/7/19 — Severe fire weather is once again in the forecast, this time for a vast swath of Northern California, and Pacific Gas & Electric has informed Cal Fire and the California Office of Emergency Management (CalOES), as well as some local law enforcement agencies, that there is a likelihood of a preemptive power shut-off in parts of up to 39 counties, with a very high likelihood in 21 counties.
Mendocino and Lake counties are included in this latter group, and according to Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin, PG&E stated in a conference call with the aforementioned agencies, that there is a 75% chance of some intentional power outages in these counties. Martin stated that the call occurred around 6 p.m. Sunday, so conditions and forecasts could well have changed by the time you read this, but this information is the most current information we could get as of time of publication.
Given the severity of the weather forecast and the huge area that it will affect, if PG&E goes through with these potential outages, it could be up to five days before power is fully restored, and people across Northern California are urged to stock up on water, food, gasoline, and cash — as well as other essentials like oxygen and medicine — in case power does remain out. Martin stated that the power might be cut off as early as 6 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The news first seemed to break in an unorthodox way that is increasingly common these days, when Sheriff Martin did a Facebook Live video-stream, discussing the information he had received from PG&E on the conference call. AS of time of publication Martin’s Facebook Live talk remains the best source of information on this impending situation.
Martin himself and people across social media people have commented on the ominous fact that this forecast coincides with the two year anniversary of night that the terrible Wine Country fires began, including the Redwood Fire that killed nine people in Redwood Valley. That fire began late on the night of Oct. 8, 2017. Said Martin, in reference to that awful night, “[This coming] weather pattern is very, very similar to that weather pattern we experienced.”
In a late night interview Scott Carroll, lead meteorologist with the Eureka office of the National Weather Service (NWS), explained that Mendocino residents should expect gusty winds and low relative humidity starting Tuesday night and continuing into Thursday.
However, he elaborated that Mendocino County will be spared the worst of the fire weather, with higher winds near the coast where the air will be relatively more moist, and lower humidities in the inland positions of the county, at higher elevation, where the winds will be relatively calmer, though still fast and gusting. This does not mean that conditions won’t be dangerous in Mendocino, only that they will be even more dangerous to the south and east, in Lake, Sonoma, Napa and Yolo counties.
Carroll elaborated, “We are forecasting some gusty winds particularly in the higher elevations of southern Mendocino County for late Tuesday afternoon in through probably Wednesday around mid day, that’s going to be the worst time.”
Carroll also noted that while the NWS and PG&E make the information collected by their various sensors public, PG&E maintains their own set of weather monitoring infrastructure, and make their own in house predictions base on a different set of criteria than the NWS. So while the NWS has not yet formally declared a red flag warning for Mendocino County (though they are likely to do so in the coming days), whether or not a red flag warning has been declared has no direct bearing on the decision to shut of or maintain power that PG&E will make.
Said Martin in his live video, “They’re telling us to be prepared — because of the large scale of this event and the large number of customers that are going to be impacted — that this event might last 5 days from the all clear, and the all clear might not come till Thursday.”
This link has the page where PG&E lists the likelihood of a power shut off for a given region. Mendocino County is in region three which currently is listed at a “PSPS Watch,” for Wednesday and Thursday. PSPS stands for Public Safety Power Shut-off, PG&E’s term for these preemptive power outages.
Martin stated that in Lake County winds gusts of up to 60 or 70 miles per hours are forecasted at higher elevation. However, the NWS Eureka said that winds in Mendocino County are not expected to blow quite so hard, topping out at the still very fast 40 or 50 mph.
Of course, these are still just predictions, and there remains a substantial chance that the weather will not be quite so inclement, or that PG&E will decide not to cut the power to Mendocino County, but it is best to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.
Here are The Mendocino Voice we have prepared some contingencies with back up batteries etc. to continue reporting the news in the event of a power outage, and we will endeavor to continue reporting, publishing and even live streaming into the days of an outage.
So keep your cellphones charged because some cell towers do have batteries and even generators, and may continue giving you internet service (albeit slow) for some hours after the power goes out.
And if the power does stay out, and we all lose cellphone service…well, if you know anyone in the county with an old fashioned, hand cranked, manual typeset printing press, not a modern one that requires electricity, give us a call. Or for that matter, someone with a generator and a copy machine.
The lights may go off but the news will go on.
Here is the most recent press release from PG&E on the issue:
October 6, 2019PG&E
Electric Service Restored to All Butte, Plumas and Yuba County P&GE Customers Affected by Saturday Night’s PSPS Event
PG&E Monitoring Weather for a Potential, Midweek, Severe Wind Event
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — As of 4:00 p.m. today, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has restored power to all customers affected by the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) initiated on Saturday, Oct. 5. PG&E had proactively shut down power for safety at approximately 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night based on forecasts of dry, hot and windy weather in Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties, affecting some 10,328 customers.
PSPS Restoration Update
Once the weather subsided Sunday morning, PG&E personnel and aerial resources responded for inspections, repairs and restoration. PG&E crews visually inspected approximately 954 miles of power lines to ensure they were free of damage and safe to energize. PG&E crews were able to restore power to all customers this afternoon.
During safety inspections, crews found two instances of damage to de-energized equipment caused by the weather and made necessary repairs. We are still analyzing our findings and will include this information in our required reporting with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) due within 10 days of initiating a PSPS.
“The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our most important responsibility, and with each Public Safety Power Shutoff, we work to further refine the processes we’ve developed to keep people safe and restore power as quickly as possible,” said Michael Lewis, senior vice president of Electric Operations, PG&E. “We know how much our customers rely on electric service, and we appreciate our communities’ understanding as we turned off power for safety this weekend. We ask that all of our customers use this event as a reminder to revisit their emergency plans and build or restock their emergency kits to prepare for emergencies during wildfire season and beyond.”
Potential, Midweek, Severe Wind Event
Looking ahead, PG&E’s meteorological and operations teams are monitoring weather models multiple times a day. At present, models indicate a widespread, strong and dry wind event Wednesday through Thursday this coming week with the main period of weather risk early Wednesday morning through Thursday midday. The dry, windy weather pattern is expected to reach from the northern portions of PG&E’s service territory and down to through the Sacramento Valley before spreading into the central areas of the state including most of the Bay Area.
The National Weather Service has issued a Fire Weather Watch for vast portions of Northern California for midweek. PG&E will continue to monitor the situation around the clock and provide updates about this evolving weather event on a daily basis.
How Customers Can Prepare
As part of PSPS preparedness efforts, PG&E is asking customers to:
Update their contact information at pge.com/mywildfirealerts or by calling 1-866-743-6589 during normal business hours. PG&E will use this information to alert customers through automated calls, texts, and emails, when possible, prior to, and during, a Public Safety Power Shutoff.
Plan for medical needs like medications that require refrigeration or devices that need power.
Identify backup charging methods for phones and keep hard copies of emergency numbers.
Build or restock your emergency kit with flashlights, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash.
Keep in mind family members who are elderly, younger children and pets. Information and tips including a safety plan checklist are available at pge.com/wildfiresafety.
While customers in high fire-threat areas are more likely to be affected by a Public Safety Power Shutoff event, any of PG&E’s more than 5 million electric customers could have their power shut off because the energy system relies on power lines working together to provide electricity across cities, counties and regions.