PG&E warns up to 2.1 million may lose power

Wednesday, 30 Oct, 2019

We know that winds generally above 45 miles per hour are known to cause damage to the lower-voltage distribution system and winds above 50 miles per hour are known to cause damage to higher-voltage transmission equipment. PG&E said this is a separate wind event, and the third power shut off for the company in a week.

This is an increase of nearly 90,000 from previous estimates, according to a representative from PG&E. You can find your closest center on the PG&E website. This new October 29 PSPS event is expected to be somewhat smaller in scope than the current October 26 PSPS. Pacific time Saturday and last through Monday afternoon. It is also working to address the heavy winds and smoke spreading through the region because of nearby fires. There was damage discovered on some of our infrastructure in the higher elevations that needs to be repaired prior to re-energization. Other parts of the East Bay are still likely to be affected, he said. "These wind speeds - we're looking at a range of 24 to 30 hours".

"As we saw in a recent PSPS event on October 9, we had more than 100 instances of damage and hazards on our distribution and transmission lines from wind gusts of this strength", he added. According to Accuweather, North Fork remains under a red flag warning until 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile, PG&E said on Thursday that a transmission tower in Sonoma County in northern California malfunctioned minutes before a fire broke out in the area that has led to the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people. It included the Sierra Nevada foothills and parts of well-to-do Marin County, population 260,000, north of San Francisco.

The sixth and final phase is scheduled to begin 10 a.m., Sunday, October 27, impacting customers in Kern County.

Some customers may continue to be impacted by the PSPS event, while others may experience power outages due to weather damage to the electric system.

Customers enrolled in the company's Medical Baseline program who do not verify that they have received these important safety communications will be individually visited by a PG&E employee when possible. Those winds have fueled several fires across the north state and accelerated the spread of the Kincade Fire burning in Sonoma County.

Troubled utility PG&E will begin crediting customers whose services have been disrupted in California, according to the state's Democratic Governor.

PG&E equipment has been blamed for five of the ten most destructive fires in California since 2015.

In 2017, a live PG&E wire broke free from an outdated tower and caused a fire in Paradise, California, killing 85 people and destroying almost 14,000 homes.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January in a bid to relieve itself of billions of dollars in liabilities stemming from lawsuits over deadly fires in the state that's its equipment allegedly helped start in both 2017 and 2018.

On Saturday, Newsom reiterated criticism of PG&E that he made in a press conference a day earlier - he blamed the utility for prioritizing profit over public safety and condemned the company's refusal to modernize its grid. "[PG&E] will be held to account to do something radically different".

Reporter Jeremy Siegel and digital producer Audrey Garces are with NPR member station, KQED.