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Remember last fall when Pacific Gas & Electric repeatedly cut power to California customers amid critical fire weather?
This could happen again next week.
PG&E has a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) Watch in effect for Tuesday and Wednesday when hot, desiccating winds are expected to pick up at the tail end of a heat wave. Northern California has seen well below-average rainfall in 2020 and the concern is the winds can damage equipment and spark wildfires that spread quickly in a dry landscape.
California’s largest utility company has said power shutoffs in 2020 will impact fewer customers and be shorter in duration compared to last year’s events when some customers were in the dark for days.
“In 2020, we are aiming to cut restoration times in half over 2019 performance, so that we restore power to a majority of customers within 12 daylight hours after severe weather has passed,” PG&E said in a statement on its website.
Blustery conditions are forecast to develop Monday night and continue into Wednesday with sustained winds of 20-40 mph in the North Bay and East Bay hills and Santa Cruz Mountains likely.
“It’s a moderate offshore wind event, but the problem is that it’s coming right after a strong heat event,” said Will Pi, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. “This combination will cause the problems for fire risk. The heat could generate new fires and then the winds could help spread flames.”
The National Weather Service has issued a Fire Weather Watch for Monday night and this could be changed to a more severe Red Flag Warning closer to the event.
PG&E officials will make the decision whether to cut power in coming days. “The start of the event is still 4 days away, so magnitude and location of the event is still uncertain at this time and some changes are likely in the forecast moving forward,” PG&E said in its forecast.
Some of the most destructive blazes in the state in recent years were started by PG&E power lines. Winds can knock down live wires and power poles or drive trees and other vegetation into contact with them.
To receive outage alerts via email or text, visit the PG&E website.
Amy Graff is the news editor for SFGATE. Email her: [email protected]