Another large “public safety power shutoff” spanning 10 counties was announced was announced by utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) on Sunday, raising more questions about the company’s increased planned blackout plans and what they mean for residents.
According to the press release, the shutoff even will begin early Monday and will continue for as long as there is a major wildfire risk in the respective counties caused by high winds and dry conditions. In total, at least 10,000 will be affected in the counties of Colusa, Glenn, Kern, Lake, Napa, Santa Barbara, Shasta, Solano, Tehama, and Yolo, all located in Northern and Central California.
“The safety shutoff is due to dynamic weather conditions despite earlier rain activity,” read the PG&E press release on Sunday. “Due to changing weather conditions Sunday morning, PG&E was able to decrease customer impact, removing 10,000 customers from the Public Safety Power Shutoff scope.
“As a result of this wind event, combined with extreme to exceptional drought conditions and extremely dry vegetation, PG&E began sending one-day advance notifications on Sunday to customers in areas where PG&E may need to proactively turn off power for safety to reduce the risk of wildfire from energized power lines.”
Monday’s outage has become only the latest mass power outage to be caused by PG&E in the last several years. Ever since a faulty PG&E utility equipment started the Camp Fire in November 2018, causing the deaths of 85 people in the town of Paradise in Butte County and costing the company tens of billions in settlements and fines, PG&E has not been willing to risk another disastrous and costly fire caused by their equipment.
Power outage only latest in large planned blackouts since 2018
Large planned blackout across California in 2019 affected millions, left critical communication lines cut off, and left many vulnerable people alone without power. While PG&E quickly found fixes for many issues, such as allowing more emergency power equipment to be held at critical infrastructure hubs such as cell phone towers, large blackouts affected millions continued in 2020 as one of the companies main anti-wildfire measures. However, PG&E has continued to be blamed for many wildfires in the region, including the 2020 Kincade Fire.
In June, PG&E warned of even more planned power outage events than previous years due to the increasing fire risk. For many in Northern California, the outages this year have come at such a frequency that it is disrupting life numerous times a week. Many businesses across Northern California are also now struggling to stay open due to the increased power outages.
Michael Duncan, a local business leader who heads a small business coalition in a small town in San Mateo County, told the Globe on Monday that they cannot take much more of the outages.
“Power has become unreliable here,” explained Duncan. “They say that it is about wildfire reduction, but if the company did their job we wouldn’t have to worry as much about higher risk. But we do. And since we can’t stay open for long without power, we’re dealing with this fallout of having to close or not stay in contact long enough to function correctly. When the power is off, computers go down, most equipment can’t be used, and even if phones work, not enough business can really be done over them. We’re on the edge here.”
The California Globe contacted PG&E for comments, but the utility company did not reply back.
Affected residents, as well as those wanting to find out if they will be among those affected, can go to the PG&E alerts website. Power is expected to be returned to most affected places in the most recent outage sometime Monday afternoon or evening.
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