PG&E restores power to most on third day of 48,000-customer shutoff

6:45 p.m. update: Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said it had restored power to most customers affected by the preventive power shutoff, with all of Napa, Placer, Plumas and Sonoma counties fully restored.

Butte County was hovering just below 50 percent power, while Nevada County was at 62.3 percent and Yuba County was 56.2 percent restored.

PG&E said it had began patrolling areas affected by the shutoff, conducting safety inspections on 2,785 miles of line and starting repairs on damaged equipment earlier in the day.

2 p.m. update: PG&E has not yet given an estimated time for power restoration to the approximately 48,200 customers whose power was shut off early Wednesday morning.

The utility noted in a news release earlier Wednesday that inspections and restoration activities can only occur during daylight hours, and that crews will need to visually inspect about 2,785 miles of transmission and distribution lines in the affected areas before restoring power. This means a significant number of customers will likely still be without power through mid-morning Thursday.

PG&E in a tweet also asked customers with PG&E equipment behind locked gates “to make sure areas are accessible” when crews arrive to restore power.

Original story:

PG&E confirmed Wednesday morning that power was cut overnight to about 48,200 customers across seven Northern California counties. The outage will continue through most of Wednesday, as critical fire weather conditions linger in the Sierra Nevada foothills and North Bay.

The public safety power shutoff was initiated between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Wednesday in Butte, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sonoma and Yuba counties, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said in a news release shortly after 6 a.m.

Who and what are being affected?

PG&E in an updated statement Wednesday morning estimated that about 22,800 customers are affected in Butte County, including parts of Chico, Paradise, Oroville and Bangor, as of 10 a.m.

An additional 16,500 customers are without power in portions of Grass Valley and Nevada City in Nevada County; about 2,600 are powerless in Auburn and Foresthill in Placer County; over 4,800 are impacted in Yuba County, including parts of Marysville; and over 700 Santa Rosa customers are also affected.

Several school district-wide closures were announced Wednesday morning, including Penn Valley, Chicago Park and Union Hill school districts in Nevada County, as well as Paradise Unified in Butte County. Five Marysville Joint Unified School District schools - Browns Valley Elementary, Dobbins Elementary, Foothill Intermediate, Loma Rica Elementary, and Yuba Feather Elementary - were also closed for a second straight day. Schools in Chico and Oroville remained open, according to the Butte County Office of Education website.

Caltrans tweeted a warning to drivers in affected areas that traffic signals may not be operating properly, and reminded drivers that flashing red lights should be treated as stop signs, while signals that are out entirely should be treated as all-way stops.

When will power be restored?

PG&E advises that some affected customers may not have power restored until Thursday because the safety inspections required to restore power must be done during daylight hours. Crews will need to inspect about 2,785 miles of power lines before power can fully be returned to the customers affected by the shutoff, according to Wednesday’s news release.

A red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service across much of Northern California was extended through early Wednesday evening, originally set to expire around midday.

Why did PG&E turn off the power?

The company on Monday evening shut off power to approximately 22,000 customers in portions of Butte, Yuba and Nevada counties as high temperatures and gusty winds were forecast to create critical wildfire conditions.

“This PSPS decision was based on forecasts of dry, hot and windy weather including potential fire risk,” PG&E’s news release said. “Forecasts indicate that the peak period of winds should end around noon today.”

PG&E then advised customers in those three counties and throughout much of the rest of the foothills and North Bay that they should “remain on standby” for another shutoff event Tuesday evening. That shutoff was pushed to the overnight hours as forecasts continued to shift, PG&E said.

The overnight outage marks the second planned shutoff since Monday. Because the shutoff that started Monday evening lasted through at least 11 a.m. Tuesday for more than 15,000 customers, according to earlier statements by PG&E, thousands of customers in portions of Butte, Yuba and Nevada counties have experienced outages for significant parts of all three days.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.