Shutoffs for the second phase of counties, initially scheduled to start around noon on Wednesday, have been delayed by a few hours. The counties impacted are: Alameda, Alpine, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Mariposa, Mendocino, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Stanislaus and Tuolumne.
About 513,000 customers were part of the first phase of this Public Safety Power Shutoff in Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo and Yuba counties.
About 21,000 in Calaveras and 800 customers in Mendocino were not part of the first phase and will be turned off during the second phase coming later Wednesday.
A third phase is being considered for the southernmost portions of PG&E’s service area, impacting approximately 42,000 customers. Specific locations are still to be determined.
PG&E says the decision to turn off the power was based on forecasts of dry, hot and windy weather including potential fire risk. However several residents have noticed little to no wind this morning in the region. That could change by this afternoon with gusts expected to pick up.
The strongest winds are forecasted to reach 60 to 70 mph at higher elevations, according to forecast models being used by PG&E.
There are 186,000 people without power in Marin, Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties according to PG&E.
Traffic has been a mess with backups at several intersections due to the outage.
PG&E shut off the power in Sonoma at midnight, causing problems for residents and bringing many to question why this was happening.
“There’s no wind. So I am a little confused with that. PG&E has a little problem with information, I think,” said Chris Lely around 6 a.m. outside the Safeway, where he was looking to get a cup of coffee.
The store had some lights on but was closed. Safeway had a generator to try and save some food but did not have enough power to open for business.
“This is the start of it. We will see how many days it runs. That will be the problem. It’s not fun. It’s better than a fire though,” Lely said.
As the morning progressed, a beautiful Fall day unfolded. But the power remained off.
“It’s a little ridiculous. It’s beautiful out… short sleeves… I don’t know what prompted the power outages,” said Josh Crozat, the general manager of G&C Auto Body
He says his office is closed but his garage workers pulled out their hand tools to try and work today. They don’t like it but say it’s better than not working at all.
“It’s exhausting. Normally you hit a button and it goes. Now you’re wrenching with your shoulder, your arm. I wouldn’t want to do it, I use a pen,” Crozat said.
Classes at Sonoma schools were cancelled because of the power outage. Gas stations were closed. People still pulled in to some stations in search of fuel….hoping for an escape.
“I thought I might want to drive to a hotel in a beautiful area that has power, but I don’t think so unless I can find some gas,” said Glen Delman.
Sonoma Market is open but with limited service. The grocery store has a generator to power its cash registers and lights but its ovens don’t work and the coffee is cold. The store is putting its meat and frozen goods in refrigerated trucks behind the store to try and save them. The
manager says if the power outage lasts for days, though, they will lose a lot of it to expiration dates.
It’s all about timing for the people in Napa, fending for themselves with a PG&E power outage that started for them at midnight, some feeling very lucky that they arrived to the local Nob Hill Market just as a new load of ice was being unloaded.
“I think they jumped the gun in my opinion,” said Napa resident Chris Vannoy as he loaded four big bags of ice into his SUV. “There’s no breeze. There’s still due on my car. Turning it off is good, but wait till it’s dangerous.”
Beyond the coping, there is a bit of frustration as residents awakened to a power outage PG & E claims it had to do because of high winds, but here, there is barely any. At least not yet.
“The wind is two miles an hour right now,” said George Wesowitch, as he walked his two dogs in South Napa. “It was 11 miles an hour last night. No wind.”
But high winds are still forecast, prompting a strike team of firefighters from all over the area to gather at a fire station near Silverado Country Club. The contingent includes firefighters from Napa County, St. Helena and American Canyon, as well as the City of Napa.
“We’re formed up as a task force,” said Captain Dan D’Angelo with the City of Napa Fire Department. “We’re pre-positioned, ready to go for a rapid response.”
At a busy intersection South of Napa, the failure of a battery backup system led to a huge backup of cars, where Highways 29 and 221 meet. It was so bad, the CHP had to step in and control traffic by flashlight.
At the Village Liquor on Monticello Road, in the heart of the outage area, the power outage is a little less dangerous, but still disruptive. The store is open, but all transactions are cash only. A portable generator is powered up at the rear of the store to keep the frozen case and the cash registers up and running, but otherwise the store is completely in the dark.
Power outages could impact 32,680 residents Alameda County and 51,310 residents in Contra Costa County. PSPS has been delayed for “a few hours,” according to PG&E.
Caltrans announced that the Caldecott Tunnel will remain open through the outage. Crews worked to provide backup generators so that it can remain open.
The Oakland Zoo has been closed today, but crews are working to prepare for the outages.
Joaquin Miller Park along with Dimond, East Oakland and Sheffield Village recreation centers in Oakland will also be closed.
In Hayward, city officials are increasing firefighter, police and emergency-dispatch staffing levels. A cooling and device-charging center at city hall.
“We believe in backups, and backups, and backups,” said Andrea Pook, a spokesperson for East Bay MUD.
Pook says EBMUD, rented 29 portable generators, to pump water to their customers since much of our water supply relies on electricity too.
“What we want to do is preserve that water supply, so what we’re asking people to do is conserve water, shut off their outdoor irrigation, when the PG&E power shut down occurs.”
“This is not a good contingency for their customers,” said Marilyn Varnado, who lives in the Oakland Hills. Like many people in the Bay Area, she checked into a hotel, when she found out her home was in an outage area.
“Most people don’t realize what an outage really means,” said Varnado, who added, “stoplights are not going to be working, there’s going to be a lot of crazy things going on and I just think there’s going to be some tragedies because of that.”
As the line of cars inches toward a San Jose Chevron off of East Capitol Expressway, vehicles were also moving closer and closer to PG&E’s public safety power shutdown.
“This is insane,” Yaneth Miluitin, a San Jose resident said. “We are not a third world country.”
Although PG&E believes 38,000 customers in Santa Clara County could be impacted by the outage, that’s counting “customer accounts.” The city said about 200,000 people could be impacted in San Jose.
“They think by shutting off the power they’re going to resolve a problem, but the problem is a lot deeper than what we’re experiencing right now,” Milutin said.
“It’s very frustrating on our part to not know what’s going on in a large swath of our city and have their power taken away,” Kip Harkness, San Jose’s deputy city manager, said.
The city’s best advice right now is to be prepared for up to seven days without power. The empty water shelves inside a South San Jose Target show at least some residents are listening to the warnings.
If you don’t have the right supplies, San Jose has opened three community resource centers to help. PG&E has a community resource center operating inside Avaya auditorium.
In San Mateo County, most of the areas in the PG&E fire zone are south of Highway 92, all the way to the Coast.
PG&E contractors worked near Highway 92 in San Mateo, trimming trees too close to power lines. PG&E appeared to have a new fire break around its Jefferson substation.
Upscale Emerald Hills, with its expensive homes, was in PG&E’s fire zone, a community with narrow winding roads where strong winds from the northwest sweep down in the afternoons.
The ACE Hassett Hardware Store was the most popular spot in Half Moon Bay, some of its shelves empty by noon. Generators were selling like hotcakes.
The Tom Lantos Tunnel at Devils Slide on Highway One is expected to remain open through the outage.
PG&E says power restoration will begin Thursday afternoon after the weather event. PG&E crews will then have to inspect every inch of their power lines and infrastructure, and depending on damage from the expected wind, power could be off in some areas until Monday or Tuesday.
PG&E says as the weather evolves, they will provide updates about the power shutoff and restoration timing.
For the latest stories about PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff go here.
ABC7 News’ Laura Anthony, Amy Hollyfield, Jobina Fortson and Liz Kreutz contributed to this report.
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