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Atmospheric River Event Expected to Hit Most of Northern and Central California on Sunday and Monday; PG&E Restoration Force of Thousands Ready to Respond to Potential Widespread Power Outages
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has thousands of workers including more than 500 electric and vegetation-management crews standing by to respond to potential widespread power outages caused by an early-season atmospheric river event that is expected to pound Northern and Central California beginning on Sunday morning.
In advance of the storm, PG&E vegetation-management crews are out today, working to keep trees away from powerlines during the forecasted wet and windy weather.
PG&E meteorologists, along with experts from the National Weather Service, forecast that the atmospheric river will push into the northern portions of the utility’s service area early on Sunday, then slowly advance south and east during the day Sunday and into Monday. It is expected to bring strong winds, heavy rainfall and high-elevation mountain snow. Maximum wind gusts across the valley floor could reach up to 45-55 miles per hour; gusts for elevated terrain could be 55-65 mph.
PG&E’s meteorology team uses a Storm Outage Prediction Model that incorporates real-time weather forecasts, coupled with 30 years of historical storm data and system knowledge to show where and when storm impacts will be most severe. This model enables the company to pre-stage crews and equipment as storms approach to enable rapid response to outages.
“The rain and snow from this October storm will bring much-needed relief to the drought-parched portions of our state. But, along with the heavy winds, it will also cause power outages. We know outages for any reason are frustrating and impactful for our customers, and we are ready to roll our fleet of blue trucks to respond safely and as quickly as possible. We won’t stop until the last impacted customer’s power is back on,” said Mark Quinlan, a PG&E Vice President and Incident Commander for the company’s readiness and response to this storm.
PG&E activated its Emergency Operations Center on Thursday for advance planning ahead of the weekend storm, as well as regional and local emergency operation centers across the service area.
Saturday, PG&E began pre-staging crews across the service area. The utility has more than 500 electric transmission, electric distribution and vegetation-management crews already staged or prepared to respond to outages. Crews range from two to four workers. Additionally, 285 troublemen and women (first on site to an outage to determine cause and necessary repairs), and 285 inspectors are working this event. Another 400 PG&E personnel will be on 911 standby, available to respond to any outage where traffic control or other support is needed, and approximately 300 vegetation-management workers will be ready.
Workers are prepared to tackle restoration in challenging weather conditions and are supported by the utility’s geosciences team. Geosciences is monitoring potential post-wildfire debris flows from incoming rains which could impact PG&E’s equipment and vegetation around its equipment.
PG&E has a microsite at the Santa Cruz Flea Market to stage crews and equipment to speed storm response and power restoration along the Central Coast. PG&E will stand up additional microsites or base camps as needed, depending on the impacts of the storm.
Keeping Customers Informed
PG&E knows how important it is to keep its customers informed. Customers can view real-time outage information on its website outage center and search by a specific address, by city or by county. This site has been updated to include in-language support for 16 languages.
Additionally, customers can sign up for outage notifications by text, email or phone. PG&E will let customers know the cause of an outage, when crews are on their way, the estimated restoration time, and when power is restored.
Storm Safety Tips
- Never touch downed wires: If you see a downed power line, assume it is energized and extremely dangerous. Do not touch or try to move it—and keep children and animals away. Report downed power lines immediately by calling 9-1-1 and by calling PG&E at 1-800-743-5002.
- Use generators safely: Customers with standby electric generators should make sure they are properly installed by a licensed electrician in a well-ventilated area. Improperly installed generators pose a significant danger to customers, as well as crews working on power lines. If using portable generators, be sure they are in a well-ventilated area.
- Use flashlights, not candles: During a power outage, use battery-operated flashlights, and not candles, due to the risk of fire. And keep extra batteries on hand. If you must use candles, please keep them away from drapes, lampshades, animals, and small children. Do not leave candles unattended.
- Have a backup phone: If you have a telephone system that requires electricity to work, such as a cordless phone or answering machine, plan to have a standard telephone or cellular phone ready as a backup. Having a portable charging device helps to keep your cell phone running.
- Have fresh drinking water, ice: Freeze plastic containers filled with water to make blocks of ice that can be placed in your refrigerator/freezer during an outage to prevent foods from spoiling. Blue Ice from your picnic cooler also works well in the freezer.
- Secure outdoor furniture: Deck furniture, lightweight yard structures and decorative lawn items should be secured as they can be blown by high winds and damage overhead power lines and property.
- Turn off appliances: If you experience an outage, unplug, or turn off all electrical appliances to avoid overloading circuits and to prevent fire hazards when power is restored. Simply leave a single lamp on to alert you when power returns. Turn your appliances back on one at a time when conditions return to normal.
- Safely clean up: After the storm has passed, be sure to safely clean up. Never touch downed wires and always call 8-1-1 or visit 811express.com at least two full business days before digging to have all underground utilities safely marked.
Other tips can be found at www.pge.com/beprepared.
PG&E, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.