PG&E girds grid, warns customers of coming power shutoffs

Monday night's YouTube briefing.

Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – With temperatures and power consumption soaring across the state, PG&E held a YouTube briefing Monday night on planned Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events.

Areas in Humboldt, including Arcata and Blue Lake, are among those that will be affected beginning Tuesday at midnight, with power restoration predicted for Wednesday at 7 p.m. But those times could change, depending on weather and risk assessments.

Find out if your address will be affected here.

Officials with the utility promised faster response, improved management, lower impact and better communication during power shutoffs following lessons learned over the past 12 to 18 months.

The online presentation began with a weather update, with meteorologist Scott Strenfel discussing a prolonged heat wave from the weekend carrying over through the early week. A new wind event is coming on as well, coupling with low humidity and dry vegetation to create critical fire conditions. “This will be a significant event,” he said. Peak wind gusts could be near 50 mph, or higher in some areas.

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PG&E has improved its weather data collection and forecasting capability over last year, and has installed some 246 new weather stations for a total of 846, allowing constant, detailed tracking which is available online.

Incident Commander Mark Quinlan reported that some 172,000 customers in 22 counties, and seven tribes will be affected by the coming PSPS events, with the majority of the impact is in the Sierra foothills.

Shutoffs will occur in areas at risk for power line blowdown, carrying on through Wednesdays, but aren’t confined only to ares of highest risk. 

Measure to minimize impacts include microgrids and substations prepared, while 69,000 customers will remain online via temporary generation or “islanding.” Some 200 “sectionalizing” devices are ready to isolate microgrids.

Some 59 helicopters and one airplane are available to run patrols of the infrastructure, “that’s it’s up in the air, in the clear and free of ignition risk,” Quinlan said.

A PG&E outage map, available via Pge.com/pspsupdates.

The utility is managing the PSPS events on top of its coronavirus response, according to Aaron Johnson of Customer Support.

It is issuing notifications 48 and 24 hours in advance via various means, including text and email. The PG&E website is continually updated with outage maps and news, a call center is active, 47 Community Resource Centers are ready to open Tuesday and 10,000 Medical Baseline customers are being contacted, some in person. 

Pge.com/pspsupdates and a redundant website have been made multilingual, with 13 languages. Safetyactioncenter.pge.com offers survival resources.

The resource centers offer everything from snacks and hydration to device charging. Those with medical symptoms are asked not to visit the centers.

Community-based organizations are being contracted to do outreach for special populations, such as the elderly and disabled.

About 100 transmission lines, and 45 distribution lines, are being shut down in response to wind and fuel conditions. “We do tend to de-energize transmission,” Quinlan said. That must be done in careful sequential order so as not to damage the system.

He said the utility is committed to restoring power within 12 daylight hours of the end of a PSPS event.

The morning of Wednesday, Sept. 9 is forecast as a likely time to begin power restoration.

 







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