Power shut-offs to hit parts of Napa and Sonoma counties as PG&E braces for ominous winds – San Francisco Chronicle

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Power was being cut overnight to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers in parts of Sonoma and Napa counties, as well as those in 20 other California counties, utility officials announced Monday evening.

Electrical services might not resume until Wednesday afternoon, though if winds die down earlier than anticipated it could be sooner.

As many as 172,000 customers across the state could lose power as the utility responds to forecasts of strong winds beginning late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. Combined with bone-dry vegetation and continuing heat, there are red flag warnings across much of the state, with extreme fire risk.The shut-offs are meant to reduce the risk of the utility’s equipment igniting a fire.

This round of shut-offs comes amid several large wildfires, an extreme heat wave, poor air quality and the COVID-19 pandemic, making them even more difficult to deal with than in previous years.

The cuts are to include 15,000 households and businesses in Santa Rosa, which works out to about 45,000 people. An additional 2,633 customers in Sonoma County’s unincorporated areas also are set to lose their electricity. In Napa County, about 5,000 customers in and around Calistoga will be shut down, PG&E officials said.

The estimated time for the shut-offs for both North Bay counties was 3 a.m. Tuesday, though it’s subject to change based on weather.

The utility anticipated shutting off power between 9 p.m. and midnight in other parts of Northern California, though the times will depend on when the winds arrive. The counties affected include: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Lassen, Mariposa, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne and Yuba.

Aaron Johnson, vice president of wildfire safety and public engagement at PG&E, acknowledged all that California is facing right now and said the decision to shut off power is necessary to protect public safety.

To mitigate the hardships, the utility plans to set up 47 centers in 17 counties where residents can access charging stations, water and snacks. Utility officials said all of the centers will require face masks, check people’s temperatures, enforce social distancing rules and regularly sanitize surfaces.

“We know that (public safety power shut-offs are) an important wildfire safety tool,” Johnson said. “But losing power is disruptive for everyone and can cause significant hardship, especially in the current environment.”

PG&E has shut off power in an attempt to prevent utility-caused wildfires since 2018, a year after downed or damaged electrical equipment sparked fires in Wine Country. In 2019, several intentional blackouts lefthundreds of thousands of customers without power for days, stoking anger among lawmakers and residents.

Meanwhile, much of the Bay Area baked Monday during day two of a punishing heat wave that has seen daily records fall in several cities.

Although San Francisco and areas around the coast were getting some relief with ocean breezes, Oakland had hit 96 degrees by 3 p.m., surpassing the previous record high of 93 degrees on Sept. 7, 1957. Livermore also looked to be on its way to setting a daily record at 111 degrees, said Drew Peterson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“The areas away from the immediate coast are still cooking,” Peterson said.

The intense heat is expected to stay until at least Tuesday and then dissipate throughout the remainder of the week.

Over the weekend, many in the Bay Area sought refuge at coastal beaches, filling up parking lots and hiking down to the water.

Mayor London Breed denounced the more than 1,000 people who gathered on Ocean Beach Saturday night to celebrate Burning Man, a weeklong festival in the Nevada desert that was canceled this year because of the pandemic. Breed said on Twitter that the city was closing the beach’s parking lots Sunday and that law enforcement would be present. She called Saturday’s gathering “reckless and selfish.”

On Sunday, heat records for Sept. 6 fell throughout the Bay Area, including 100 degrees in downtown San Francisco; 102 in downtown Oakland; and 110 in Napa. Also showing record heat were Livermore, Richmond, Kentfield, Redwood City, Half Moon Bay, San Jose and Gilroy.

Cynthia Dizikes is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @CDizikes

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