Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced Friday afternoon that the utility continues to monitor a potentially powerful and widespread dry, hot and windy weather event that could prompt another shutoff this weekend.
“Given the forecast and conditions, PG&E is advising its customers of the potential for a widespread Public Safety Power Shutoff lasting several days, intended to prevent a catastrophic wildfire,” the utility said in a release issued Friday afternoon. “As this intense weather event approaches the service area in the next 24 hours, PG&E’s forecasts will offer sharper detail, noting that the scope may continue to change on the number of customers who will be affected.”
PG&E officials said the current weekend forecast could impact the utility's service area Saturday between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. and last until midday on Monday.
“PG&E will need to turn off power for safety several hours before the potentially damaging winds arrive,” read the release. “It’s important to note that as this weather system sweeps from north to south over a period of two days, PG&E customers across Northern and Central California will feel the effects of hot, dry winds at different times, which means outage times will vary, as well.”
The shutoff is expected to impact approximately 850,000 customers in 36 counties across the state including an estimated 64 residents in Colusa County in and around the areas of Arbuckle, Maxwell, Sites, Williams.
“Predictive data models indicate the weather event could be the most powerful in California in decades, with widespread dry Northeast winds between 45-60 miles per hour and peak gusts of 60-70 mph in the higher elevations,” read the release. “Winds of this magnitude pose a higher risk of damage and sparks on the electric system and rapid wildfire spread. The fire risk is even higher because vegetation on the ground has been dried out by recent wind events.”
PG&E spokesperson Paul Moreno said on Friday afternoon that PG&E has confirmed seven instances of weather-related damages to its system in the areas impacted by the shutdown and an additional 21 instances of potential weather-related damages are still being assessed. Examples of damages include downed lines and vegetation on power lines. Moreno could not confirm the location of any instances at this time.
In a release issued on Friday morning, the National Weather Service said damaging northerly winds combined with extremely low humidities will create extreme fire weather conditions this weekend and a fire weather watch will be in effect for much of the Northern California interior.
“We are expecting the strongest wind event so far this Fall, and a High Wind Watch is in effect,” read the release. “The strongest winds will occur Saturday night into Sunday.”
As of Friday morning, the National Weather Service expects fire weather conditions to reach extreme levels on Sunday in the valley as well as the foothills and mountainous areas.
The National Weather Service predicts that the winds will decrease gradually throughout the day on Monday but said another round of dry northerly winds is possible next Tuesday into Wednesday.