Fires

PG&E says 53,000 customers still without power Thursday, 300,000 restored Wednesday

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. says 53,000 households and businesses remain without power as of Thursday, the final round of customers needing restoration after the latest round of blackouts has affected more than 700,000 customers in Northern and Central California since the weekend.

PG&E says that at 10 a.m. Wednesday, it received the “all-clear” from its meteorologists to begin the process of inspecting lines and restoring power. The company said in a news release at the time that “winds had subsided to safe levels to allow crews to begin safety inspections of de-energized equipment, repair any wind damage, and restore power.”

The utility company says it has restored power to about 312,000 customers between then and 10 p.m. Wednesday, with restoration activities paused until the sun comes up Sunday.

PG&E said more than 6,300 personnel and 46 helicopters are being deployed to restore power from the shutoff, which started Tuesday night, as well as a previous shutoff that has lasted for some since Saturday.

Customers were fully restored in: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Madera, Mariposa, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Siskiyou, Solano, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne and Yolo counties, according to the utility.

That left 53,000 customers without power in portions of Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Kern, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Sonoma and Yuba counties as of Thursday morning.

The latest round of blackouts marked the fourth major engineered cutoff this month, the company said.

The company earlier Wednesday ditched outage plans in seven counties, keeping power on for almost 100,000 customers.

But, as the PG&E website warns, full restoration involves visual inspection of thousands of miles of transmission and distribution lines, a process that the utility says can take upwards of 48 hours in some cases.

Scott Strenfel, PG&E’s chief meteorologist, said northerly winds should die down soon after the gusty weekend, and although there is no rain forecast for the next week or so, no windstorms are expected either, likely meaning reduced fire danger in Northern California.

Homes and businesses affected by the shutoff Wednesday include many that ring the Sacramento area, including portions of Calaveras, El Dorado, Lake, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Yolo and Yuba counties.

Colfax resident Rick Gaines said he’s been without power since Saturday night, and that when he called PG&E on Wednesday morning, he was told his power wasn’t scheduled to return until this coming Saturday. Gaines bought a generator, but said he’s been without running water because the generator can’t power his well.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Gaines said, noting that conditions never got windy on Tuesday. “It’s absolutely as still as can be in Colfax.”

Most of the strong winds have been observed in Southern California including in Simi Valley, where the Easy Fire has exploded to more than 1,000 acres in a matter of hours, threatening homes and landmarks such as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Alameda, Contra Costa, Humboldt, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Siskiyou counties were spared in the planned shutoff initiated by PG&E, which started in phases Tuesday and is expected to last through at least midday Wednesday for most customers, the company said in a 3:30 a.m. update to its website. The decision not to cut power in those areas came “given changes to the weather forecasts,” PG&E said.

PG&E also says it has restored power to 73 percent of the 973,000 homes and businesses affected by the previous shutoff over the weekend, meaning about 710,000 customers regained electricity. The company previously said, prior to reducing the scope of the latest event from 29 to 22 counties, that about 400,000 customers that had power cut during the weekend event should expect to remain without service through the end of the midweek shutoff.

With nearly 1 million customers affected, the weekend’s shutoff event was the broadest PG&E has implemented so far. It came as wind gusts on par with Category 2 hurricane battered some parts of the state, according to the National Weather Service and PG&E meteorologists.

PG&E said it found about 83 instances of equipment damage so far in connection with the weekend wind event.

The “public safety planned shutoff” beginning Tuesday marked the third such event initiated by PG&E in a seven-day span. All of the shutoffs came in response to forecasts of fierce winds contributing to critical wildfire risk across much of Northern California.

Heavy gusts helped the rapid spread of the Kincade Fire, which ignited in the late hours of Oct. 23 and exploded the following morning, then flared up again over the weekend.

Also on Tuesday, the company said it would rebate customers affected by the Oct. 9 shutoff with a “one-time bill credit.”

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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.
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