Santa’s Sleigh won’t be the only blip seen on California radars this week. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) meteorologists are forecasting that a series of moderately strong storm systems that began to arrive in northern areas Tuesday will produce strong winds, steady rainfall, low elevation snow and potential widespread power outages for the next week.
In advance of the storm, PG&E is confirming the availability of crew resources during the holiday weeks, shifting planned maintenance work until after the storm window closes, and hunkering down for a long winter’s work period of holiday power restoration.
“We know how much our customers depend on us to keep the lights and the heat on, especially during the holidays. As we’ve studied this developing weather pattern over the past several days, we’ve activated our winter storm response plans so that we can be ready when our customers need us,” said Wade Smith, PG&E’s Senior Vice President, Electric Operations.
PG&E meteorologists, along with experts from the National Weather Service, are calling for light to moderate rain and breezy to gusty winds from the first weather system which arrived in the Humboldt area yesterday and began moving south last night and this morning. A second and colder weather system is expected to arrive Friday into Saturday with widespread rain, lowering snow levels and gusty winds Wind gusts of 30 to 45 mph are possible with the passage of this system with snow levels down to around 2,000 feet in some areas.
Winter storms produce wet and windy conditions that can cause trees, limbs and other debris to fall into power lines, damage equipment and interrupt electric service. In some areas, ground already saturated by previous storms, along with drought-intensified conditions that weakened vegetation, could cause more trees to fall into our equipment and cause power outages.
PG&E’s meteorology team has developed a Storm Outage Prediction Model that incorporates real-time weather forecasts, historical data and system knowledge to accurately 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. Those activities are taking place now.
Among other actions being taken by PG&E:
- 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 is also distributing power poles, power lines, transformers and other electric equipment from our three materials centers to yards throughout our service territory to restore power to impacted areas as quickly as possible.
- We will also be activating local operations emergency centers throughout our service area in impacted regions to allocate all staff and resources to restoration efforts.
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 then PG&E at 1-800-743-5002.
- 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.
- Use generators safely: Customers with standby electric generators should ensure 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.
- 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.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, 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.