PG&E power outage curtailed in Northern California as utility cites improving weather outlook
PG&E curtailed its planned power outage in Sonoma County and across Northern California at mid-day Wednesday, citing improved weather conditions that limited the cutoffs to about 5,500 customers, one fourth of the number that had been scheduled.
The decision came as dry wind continued to blow in Santa Rosa, but humidity no longer met the threshold for an outage aimed at preventing wildfires, said Deanna Contreras, a PG&E spokeswoman.
As the day began, PG&E had intended to shut off power to 19,265 customers in the county — down from the original plan envisioned to impact nearly 40,000 customers.
“The weather models in advance of this wind event were extremely variable – showing the possibility for either a rain event or a dry offshore wind event,” Contreras said.
The utility announced that 83,000 customers in five counties and the Guerneville area of Sonoma County will not lose power. About 14,000 customers in four counties may still be impacted.
The outages started about 7 a.m. and impacted customers well east of Highway 101, Contreras said.
Shut-offs in west county, which were due to start at 4 p.m., are now canceled.
Contreras said some unplanned outages could still occur today due to the continued winds.
PG&E still plans to restore power to all customers by the end of the day Thursday, but could complete the work sooner in Sonoma County due to the curtailed outage, she said.
Kristine Burk, an east Santa Rosa resident, said she got up at 5 a.m. Wednesday to shower and make coffee and breakfast because the outage would cut off her well water.
Burk, who has been hit by all six outages in the county this fall, said she was “one of the unlucky ones” this time. “I hate to feel special in this regard,” she said with a touch of sarcasm.
No one wants wildfires, Burk said, but she questioned PG&E’s handling of the shut-offs.
“I wish I felt like there was some method to the madness,” she said. “It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me.”
A PG&E map of the outages showed they included customers along the Mark West Springs Road corridor into Napa County and in east Santa Rosa, a large area of Rincon Valley, east of Middle Rincon Road.
The winds picked up intensity throughout the morning in Santa Rosa, littering the ground with piles of dry leaves yanked off tree limbs swaying high overhead.
Colleen Falconer, owner of Colleen’s Coffee Shop at the intersection of Mountain Hawk Drive and Sonoma Highway, said the shop lost power around 7:10 a.m. Wednesday, and this blackout was the first time that she decided to stay open, offering an amended menu of pastries, cold sandwiches and coffee.
Customers that have become regulars slowly trickled in for a caffeine boost in a dim room illuminated by one lamp and the sun beaming through the front windows.
“I lost everything in the walk-in (the first time). It was pretty devastating,” said Falconer, who has now changed her purchasing habits until the fire season ends. “I’m a pretty new owner so this has been hard.”
Previous shut-offs have cost thousands of dollars in food losses for a small business barely a year old, she said.