Historic Power Shutoffs Continue in the Bay Area

PG&E has proactively turned off power to hundreds of thousands of customers due to elevated fire danger

PG&E late Thursday afternoon started restoring power to several areas impacted by proactive outages amid high fire danger.

While many of the hundreds of thousands of customers across Northern and Central California were still in the dark, the utility gave its crews an all clear to start safety inspections on equipment after weather conditions improved. Officials said restorations efforts would begin in many areas impacted by outages.

PG&E's utility's public safety power shutoffs — prompted by dry, gusty weather — left roughly 278,000 customers across the Bay Area to carry out their daily tasks without electricity.

PG&E on Thursday afternoon said improving weather conditions allowed crews an "all clear" to perform safety inspections and that restoration efforts would begin in many areas impacted by outages.

"We faced a choice here between hardship on everyone or safety, and we chose safety," PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson said. "I do apologize for the hardship this has caused, but I think we made the right call on safety."

PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson in a press conference discusses the utility’s decision to proactively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers amid high fire danger.

Officials late Thursday afternoon reported power was restored to most of San Jose and Morgan Hill areas impacted. Several East Bay cities, including Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda also reported PG&E crews were in the process of restoring power to the areas.

At the start, the shutoffs were expected to impact roughly 800,000 customers in parts of eight Bay Area counties and across much of Northern and Central California, according to the utility. 

Some 126,000 customers throughout the region have had their power restored, the utility reported Thursday. PG&E said about 600,000 customers are still without power.

It is not known when the rest of the impacted customers spread out across Northern and Central California will have their power restored. PG&E has warned that they might have to do without power for days after the winds subside because "every inch" of the power system must be inspected by helicopters and thousands of groundworkers and declared safe before the grid is reactivated.

PG&E said it planned to turn off power in three phases. The first went into effect around 12 a.m. Wednesday, impacting roughly 513,000 customers across Northern California, including areas of Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.

The second phase, which originally was scheduled to begin around 12 p.m. Wednesday, was delayed due to changes in the weather forecast. Early Thursday morning, PG&E cut power to about 234,000 customers in 10 phase two counties, including Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

A third phase of shutoffs is being considered for about 4,000 customers in Kern County.

Areas Affected by the Public Safety Power Shutoff

A planned outage from PG&E is expected to hit roughly 800,000 customers in parts of Northern, Central and coastal California.

Enter your location in the search bar below to see if you or your area will be affected.

Data: PG&E
Nina Lin/NBC

The shutoffs mark the most sweeping effort in state history to prevent wildfires caused by windblown power lines. The move comes after two years of catastrophic fires sent PG&E into bankruptcy and forced it to take more aggressive steps to prevent blazes.

Deliberate outages like these could become the new normal in an era in which scientists say climate change is leading to fiercer blazes and longer fire seasons.

NBC Bay Area
A look at how many PG&E customers are estimated to be impacted during planned power shutoffs in the Bay Area. (Oct. 8, 2019)

The planned outages have prompted many schools and colleges in the Bay Area to cancel classes. See a full list of school closures here.

There were concerns that the power outages would force Caltrans to close the Caldecott and Tom Lantos (Devil's Slide) Tunnels, but both will remain open. Crews brought in temporary generators to power the Caldecott Tunnel and rerouted power to keep the Tom Lantos Tunnels open.

In anticipation of the shutoffs, Sonoma County and Santa Clara County declared a local emergency in response. 

The city of Morgan Hill enforced a curfew Wednesday night through Thursday morning in areas impacted by the shutoff.

"This curfew is for the safety of the community to reduce the opportunity of crime," the city of Morgan Hill said in a Facebook post. 

Morgan Hill is the only known Bay Area city to enact a curfew during the PG&E power shutoffs. Kris Sanchez reports.

The county-by-county breakdown below shows how many Bay Area customers are expected to be impacted by the shutoffs:

  • Alameda County: 32,680 customers in Oakland, Castro Valley, Fremont, Union City, Berkeley, Hayward, San Leandro, Sunol, Pleasanton, Livermore.
  • Contra Costa County: 51,310 customers in San Ramon, Orinda, Lafayette, Moraga, Pinole, Richmond, Kensington, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Berkeley, Canyon, San Pablo, Pittsburg, Rodeo, Concord, Albany, Antioch, Martinez.
  • Marin County: 9,855 customers in Bolinas, Fairfax, Mill Valley, Muir Beach, Olema, Sausalito, Stinson Beach.
  • Napa County: 32,124 customers in Napa, Saint Helena, Calistoga, Angwin, Pope Valley, Rutherford, Oakville, Deer Park, Lake Berryessa, Yountville, American Canyon.
  • San Mateo County: 14,766 customers in Half Moon Bay, El Granada, Woodside, Moss Beach, Montara, Portola Valley, Pescadero, La Honda, Redwood City, San Gregorio, Loma Mar, San Mateo, Menlo Park, Emerald Hills, Pacifica, Princeton, Davenport, Palo Alto.
  • Santa Clara County: 38,250 customers in San Jose, Morgan Hill, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Redwood Estates, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Coyote, Gilroy, Mount Hamilton, Palo Alto, Holy City.
  • Solano County: 32,863 customers in Fairfield, Vacaville, Suisun City, Vallejo, Dixon.
  • Sonoma County: 66,289 customers in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Petaluma, Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Glen Ellen, Penngrove, Geyserville, Kenwood, Rohnert Park, Windsor, Annapolis, Stewarts Point, Cotati, Cazadero, Guerneville, Larkfield, El Verano, Boyes Hot Springs, Fulton, Bodega Bay.
Kris Sanchez explains what you need to do to prepare for a PG&E power shutoff and what you should do when the lights go out.

The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.

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