People in 24 counties are preparing to live without power on Wednesday in another move by PG&E to reduce its risk of starting another wildfire.
PG&E added Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties to the list on Tuesday night, boosting the number of estimated customers impacted to 171,581 — likely more when accounting for households with more than one person. Other Bay Area counties include Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Solano, and Sonoma. Alameda County was removed Tuesday afternoon, reducing the previously estimated impact of 303,000 people.
The utility is undergoing another round of what it calls public safety power shutoffs due to dry weather and high winds expected this week. It’s anticipated to begin early Wednesday morning and end Thursday mid-morning.
Though PG&E has a goal to restore power to most people by Thursday night, it took several days for customers to receive power after the shutoffs in early October.
PG&E faced criticism for shifting liability from the company itself onto other people with ramifications of cutting off power for more than 30,000 people who use medically-necessary machines. A 67-year-old man in El Dorado County who relied on oxygen died within minutes of losing power amid the scheduled shutoffs. (A coroner determined he died of another cause but the fire chief said there were too many variables.)
This time around, more than 14,000 people facing shutoffs are considered medical baseline customers. Other consequences include school closures, hospitals relying on emergency generators, food waste, and economic losses estimated at $2 billion.
Wednesday would mark the sixth shutoff this year. Still, an equipment issue occurred around the time Sonoma County’s Kincade Fire ignited in late October. The cause remains under investigation but a federal judge overseeing the utility’s probation grilled leaders over the fire and shutoffs earlier this month, the Chronicle reported.
Assemblymember Marc Levine, who represents Marin County, announced legislation on Monday that would set up a public administrator to oversee public safety operations for PG&E or other investor-owned utilities.
San Francisco is, once again, exempt as its urban environment means it does not face nearly the same wildfire risk. But a recent report found that PG&E does shut off power to about 15,000 city customers annually for nonpayment, disproportionately impacting neighborhoods with more people of color.
Residents of impacted counties can check if they’ll have their power cut using their address on PG&E’s website. Those who ultimately won’t have power can head to the utility’s designated community resource centers, like Oakland’s Meritt Community College or Santa Cruz’s Costo parking lot, to charge up.
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