More sweep­ing power out­ages could af­fect 605,000 cus­tomers

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Joseph Serna, Ale­jan­dra Reyes-Ve­larde and Colleen Shalby

LOS AN­GE­LES — Cal­i­for­ni­ans are brac­ing for ma­jor power out­ages through­out the state as util­i­ties con­sider sweep­ing black­outs amid re­turn­ing high winds.

Pa­cific Gas and Elec­tric Co. an­nounced Mon­day it could shut off power to 605,000 cus­tomers Tues­day and to­day in its lat­est bid to re­duce the wild­fire risk.

The black­out would cover more than two dozen North­ern Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties and comes just days af­ter a much larger power shut-off that cov­ered nearly 1 mil­lion cus­tomers over the week­end. That out­age is be­lieved to have af­fected more than 2 mil­lion res­i­dents in the Bay Area and other north­ern re­gions.

To the south, a forecast of more Santa Ana winds prompted

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Edi­son to say it could shut off power to more than 350,000 cus­tomers.

The black­outs are a new and con­tro­ver­sial tac­tic de­signed to pre­vent wind-driven brush fires caused by downed util­ity lines. Of­fi­cials think the tac­tic is ef­fec­tive. But two ma­jor fires this month — the Kin­cade in Sonoma County and the Sad­dleridge in L.A. — might have been caused by downed power lines.

With the big Kin­cade fire spread­ing, Santa Rosa res­i­dents were forced to evac­u­ate in dark­ness early Sun­day amid PG&E power out­ages, us­ing flash­lights and cell­phones as light sources.

Else­where, busi­nesses have had to close and plans have been can­celed. Food spoiled in re­frig­er­a­tors.

PG&E on Mon­day re­vealed it had failed to no­tify about 23,000 of its cus­tomers of pre­cau­tion­ary power shut­downs ear­lier this month and also dis­closed that its equip­ment mal­func­tioned near two fires that broke out in Con­tra Costa County on Sun­day af­ter­noon.

The util­ity iden­ti­fied the in­ci­dents in fil­ings to the Cal­i­for­nia Public Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion the same day the CPUC an­nounced it will in­ves­ti­gate how PG&E and other util­i­ties han­dled shut-offs this year amid com­pet­ing de­mands. Crit­ics want PG&E to stop caus­ing more wild­fires, but the util­ity also has come un­der fire for caus­ing mas­sive power black­outs, of­ten without ad­e­quate notice to the public and vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions.

The util­ity de-en­er­gized lines to 729,000 of its cus­tomers be­tween Oct. 9 and 12, but no­ti­fi­ca­tions were not sent to about 23,000 cus­tomers, in­clud­ing 500 with med­i­cal con­di­tions, PG&E stated in a CPUC fil­ing.

Those not no­ti­fied did not have con­tact in­for­ma­tion on file with the com­pany or were over­looked be­cause of the shift­ing grid pat­terns that the util­ity was es­tab­lish­ing, among other rea­sons, ac­cord­ing to PG&E of­fi­cials who de­clined to com­ment be­yond what was stated in the re­port.

The com­pany said it tries to reach cus­tomers who re­quire power for med­i­cal equip­ment — who are known as med­i­cal base­line cus­tomers — through any means nec­es­sary, in­clud­ing phone calls, text mes­sages, emails or knocks on the door.

“Of the 30,026 med­i­cal base­line cus­tomers im­pacted, PG&E ver­i­fied 29,144 re­ceived notice prior to de-en­er­giza­tion,” the re­port stated. “A to­tal of 28,138 con­firmed re­ceipt of a no­ti­fi­ca­tion, which in­cluded 5,080 door knocks.”

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