Massive blackouts affecting more than 2 million people are expected this weekend throughout the Bay Area, Northern California and Central California, the third time this month that Pacific Gas and Electric Co. will have turned off power to avert catastrophic wildfires.
PG&E said about 850,000 homes and businesses in its service territory might start losing power Saturday evening as it scrambles to prevent powerful winds — the strongest in years — from damaging its lines and thereby sparking more fires.
PG&E issued a “watch” notice — meaning that shut-offs are highly likely — on territory across 36 counties, including most of the Bay Area, for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The shut-offs will affect more Bay Area residents than either the outage this week that’s just ending or the mid-October outage.
San Francisco is expected to be spared, but every other Bay Area county will see some lose power if the shut-offs proceed as planned.
The National Weather Service said Friday that a red-flag warning for dangerously strong winds and critically low humidity was in effect for the North Bay and East Bay from 8 p.m. Saturday to 11 a.m. Monday, and for the Peninsula coast and the Santa Cruz Mountains from 3 a.m. Sunday to 11 a.m. Monday.
PG&E said customers should be prepared for shut-offs to last at least 48 hours. Turning the lights back on is no simple matter, as it involves inspecting and repairing miles of power lines. The company said it has requested mutual aid of 1,000 workers from other energy companies and hopes to begin power restoration by Monday afternoon.
Santa Rosa’s Fire Department tweeted Friday that “residents should prepare now in the event of an extended outage lasting multiple days.”
Due to forecasted conditions, PG&E has announced the potential for another power shutoff impacting significant portions of Sonoma County beginning 10/26. Residents should prepare now in the event of an extended outage lasting multiple days. https://t.co/foWpVBIsUJ
— Santa Rosa Fire Department (@SantaRosaFire) October 25, 2019
UC Berkeley said it is preparing for limited power starting Saturday evening. Its co-generation plant will maintain power for student residence halls, dining facilities and research operations. “We ask that everyone avoids campus for the duration of the outage,” it wrote in a statement.
Sonoma County social workers are mobilizing to check in on low-income residents with disabilities, bringing them food and water, said Karen Fies, director of the county’s Human Services Department.
The county dispatched its “Fast Team” — workers who specialize in adult and aging services — to help seniors obtain prescription medications and other items they may have left behind after evacuating from the fire or relocating ahead of the power shut-offs. Social workers also will be heading to evacuation centers this weekend to help with residents who have disabilities or language barriers, Fies said.
Similar preparations are under way in Marin County, said Dr. Matt Willis, the county’s public health officer.
“Another concern as outages go longer is food,” he said, noting that two days is the limit for food in unpowered fridges to stay edible. “For lower-income families that are already struggling to make ends meet, losing all the food in their fridge can be a financial hardship.”
CalFresh recipients can request emergency coverage through the state Department of Social Services, he said.
As of noon Friday, 97% of customers impacted by Wednesday’s shut-off had their power restored, PG&E said. About 3,220 customers in Sonoma County, near the Kincade Fire, and 35 customers in Kern County remained without power.
In Sausalito, which was hit by outages earlier this month, residents and businesses were bracing for another round on Friday.
Michael Lappert, the owner of Lappert’s Ice Cream on Bridgeway, stood inside his giant freezer surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling collection of mint chip, rocky road, Cookie Monster, honeysuckle rose and other coins of his realm.
Lappert said he has no choice but to truck all 800 tubs to his generator-powered storage freezer in Richmond.
“With no power, this stuff would only last eight or nine hours,” he said. “I can’t risk it.”
Lappert said shifting ice cream from freezer to freezer ahead of power outages looks to be part of his business in the 21st century.
PG&E customers affected by power shut-offs
Counties affected by shut-offs
Peak wind gusts expected
Length of blackouts people should prepare for
PG&E customers that could be affected by power shut-offs
Peak wind gusts expected
Minimum length of blackouts people should prepare for
Alameda: 57,360 customers (Albany, Berkeley, Canyon, Castro Valley, Dublin, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Oakland, Piedmont, Pleasanton, San Leandro, Sunol)
Contra Costa: 48,824 (Alamo, Antioch, Brentwood, Byron, Canyon, Clayton, Concord, Crockett, Danville, Diablo, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Hercules, Kensington, Knightsen, Lafayette, Martinez, Moraga, Orinda, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Port Costa, Richmond, Rodeo, San Pablo, San Ramon, Walnut Creek)
Marin: 86,813 (Belvedere, Bolinas, Corte Madera, Dillon Beach, Fairfax, Fallon, Forest Knolls, Greenbrae, Inverness, Kentfield, Lagunitas, Larkspur, Marshall, Mill Valley, Muir Beach, Nicasio, Novato, Olema, Point Reyes Station, Ross, San Anselmo, San Geronimo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Stinson Beach, Tiburon, Tomales, Woodacre)
Napa: 11,294 (Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Lake Berryessa, Oakville, Pope Valley, Rutherford, St. Helena, Yountville)
San Mateo: 64,932 (Belmont, Burlingame, Daly City, El Granada, Emerald Hills, Half Moon Bay, Hillsborough, La Honda, Loma Mar, Montara, Moss Beach, Pacifica, Pescadero, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Gregorio, San Mateo, South San Francisco, Woodside,
Santa Clara: 27,093 (Coyote, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Redwood Estates, San Jose, San Martin)
Solano: 10,232 (Fairfield, Suisun City, Vacaville, Vallejo)
Sonoma:92,877 (Annapolis, Bodega, Bodega Bay, Camp Meeker, Cazadero, Cloverdale, Cotati, Duncans Mills, Forestville, Freestone, Geyserville, Glen Ellen, Graton, Guerneville, Healdsburg, Jenner, Kenwood, Larkfield, Monte Rio, Occidental, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rio Nido, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Stewarts Point, Valley Ford, Villa Grande, Windsor)
Source: Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
“I’m trying to keep this in perspective,” he said. “We’re not in a war zone. We’re not getting bombed. We’re just losing power. For a while. It’s a giant inconvenience, that’s all.”
For Sausalito, another issue is what happens when residents’ sewage tanks fill up. Much of shoreline Sausalito, including the scores of live-aboard boats, relies on electric pumps that move the contents of home-sewage tanks to sewer pipes that lie uphill.
Jim Scriba said he will shower and take care of other bathroom needs at his gym until his home-sewage pump gets back in business. The alternative, he said, is “not appealing.”
Kevin McGowan, Sausalito director of public works, said he doesn’t know how many residents use the private-property injector-pump systems. The city’s four main sewage pump stations will be powered by generators.
His crew is placing stop signs at the town’s nine traffic signals, all located on the main street, Bridgeway.
“The vehicle code says everyone should stop when there are no lights (functioning) on overhead signals,” he said. “But when the power was out last time, we found that drivers were getting confused and going through the intersections. There were too many close calls.”
At Sausalito’s iconic hamburger joint, chef John Reyes was grabbing chunks of ground meat from a giant bag and molding them into 6-ounce, baseball-size spheres.
“I won’t be doing this on Saturday,” he said. The meat was bound for the legendary rotating grill in the front window of Hamburgers on Bridgeway, each to become a $9.15 hamburger.
On Saturday, with no power to keep the meat cold, Reyes’ boss told him he planned to decline delivery of the daily shipment of 40 pounds of hamburger and shut down the restaurant.
“What else can we do?” Reyes said.
Chronicle staff writers Anna Bauman and Catherine Ho contributed to this report.
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