MENDOCINO Co., 9/6/20 — Mendocino County and Northern California are in for a rough week as a combination of declining air quality, potential fire weather, and an ongoing heat wave strain the statewide power grid. Residents should prepare for a range of environmental stressors in the coming days, as record high temperatures, smokey skies, and possible power outages are all in the forecast.
Air quality across much of interior Mendocino County has been intermittently in the “unhealthy” range over the last several weeks, and with several news fires exploding in Northern Calfornia this weekend, including the Creek Fire near Shaver Lake, and with an increase in wind speeds predicted, smoke is likely to continue or increase across the region over the next several days.
There is also an excessive heat warning in effect, along with a “flex alert” to conserve power, and PG&E has warned that planned power shut-offs may occur due to fire weather through Wednesday in portions of Northern California, including the two zones that include Mendocino County.
#PowerOutageAlert— Mendocino Sheriff (@MendoSheriff) September 6, 2020
Portions of the unincorporated areas of Mendocino County MAY experience a temporary power outage between 7pm and 9pm, today, 9/6/2020.
PG&E tries to provide warning but these decisions are made by @California_ISO & MAY come without notice.
Are you ready? pic.twitter.com/4ey6YsmYxr
Here’s some resources to help you check the current conditions, forecasts, and to be prepared in this coming wildfire season. It can be tricky to balance protecting yourself from wildfires, smoke, a historic heat wave, and conserve energy — all while social distancing! — but we hope this info will help you keep track of what’s happening.
August Complex Fire and other wildfires: The closest wildfire to many Mendocino County residents is the August Complex Fire burning in the Mendocino National Forest, and the United States Forest Service is providing regular updates on that fire, via their Facebook page and also through the USFS incident page for the August Complex (updated at least twice daily). The fire is expected to see growth over the next several days as winds and high temperatures increase in the region — currently portions of the Mendocino National Forest are under evacuation, and portions of the forest are closed through October 31 due to fire.
Many of the current fires are either managed by Cal Fire (see full wildfire map here) or the United States Forest Service (see full map of wildfires here). Our most recent coverage on the August Complex can be found here, and here’s our 2020 fire season coverage. The fire awareness camera network can be viewed here.
Air quality: There are three Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) airnow.gov sensors located in Mendocino County, monitored by the Mendocino County Air Quality Management District, as well as a number of much smaller “Purple Air” sensors, a private company. The EPA’s fire and smoke air quality website provides current air quality information from both types of sensors, as well as approximates the location of smoke plumes from the ongoing wildfires. You can sign up for air quality email alerts from Mendocino County here, and see the forecast here. Here’s more of our recent coverage about air quality.
Heat warning and fire danger weather: Parts of California are facing a historic heat wave this week, and the National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for large portions of the interior North Coast through Tuesday, and a fire weather watch for parts of interior Mendocino County from Monday evening through Wednesday morning. Check the forecast for your specific area here.
Power outages and shut-offs: The California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO), which manages the statewide grid, has called for customers to conserve power via a “flex alert” from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, in anticipation of increased strain on the grid due to the heat wave. This may result in rolling blackouts, which could impact Mendocino County.
Here’s some tips about conserving power. PG&E customers should make sure they are signed up for emergency notifications, and can get updated information about potential rolling blackouts here. The ISO also has an app where you can check the current capacity. City of Ukiah customers should check with the City of Ukiah for updated information regarding any power outages at the 24-7 information hotline, 707-463-6288 or check for updates on their Facebook page. Our coverage of power outages and shut-offs can be found here.
In addition, PG&E has said that the utility company may initiate planned power shut-offs, similar to those that occurred last October in Mendocino County, on Tuesday and Wednesday to mitigate fire risks from power equipment. The company began alerting some customers on Saturday, but will continue to adjust the plan in accordance with weather predictions. More information regarding the planned power outages can be found on the PG&E weather awareness webpage or on the planned power shut-off page, where you can look up your address, see a map of current or planned outages, or find a charging center.
Mendocino County emergency notifications: There are a number of different emergency notification systems used within Mendocino County; in part, the redundancy is intended to provide an alternate system if one is not operational. These systems include the Nixle alert system, as well as several others. Here’s a video overview from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, which issues evacuations during wildfires, so you can check to see whether you are signed up for notifications.