PG&E Power Outage: How long will this last, what's happening with PG&E, where can you get help?

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019
PG&E Power Outage: Frequently asked questions and answers
You have questions, we have answers. Here's what you need to know about PG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoff.

You have questions about the power outage, we have answers. Here's what you need to know about PG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoff.

What is happening with PG&E?

As of October 23, PG&E is temporarily and preemptively turning off power for safety reasons to approximately 179,000 customers in Northern California. This action has officially been deemed a public safety power shutoff, and this might not be the end of it. PG&E is now saying there could be another shutoff this weekend as more wind is expected. Schools, government offices, businesses, and customers are being adversely impacted. More information can be found here.

Why is this happening?

PG&E says it is shutting off power to reduce the risk that its equipment will start wildfires in California. There is an imminent high wind advisory event with the potential to trigger power line sparking and fires. PG&E equipment has taken intensive blame in the past for starting destructive wildfires in California. The company was publicly criticized and financially penalized for involvement in the Camp Fire of Nov. 2018, the deadliest fire in state record. PG&E has also been held accountable for some of the 2017 North Bay Wildfires.

The shut off two weeks ago left California's leaders and citizens outraged. On Oct. 8, 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared, "(The people) should be outraged. They should be infuriated by this, and I recognize that, as we are. But here's the thing: This was anticipated many months ago. This is industry best practice...I think fundamentally that's why we're spending time here together, frustrated, outraged in some cases, anxious about public health, and public safety, and business interruption. But we anticipated this, and we're going to try to do everything we can to get through it." More public information and reactions can be found here.

Where is it happening?

This PG&E power shutoff is affecting vast swaths of Northern California, including Napa, San Mateo, Sonoma, and Solano Counties. We have a full list of the affected areas here.

How long will it last?

In short, there is no definitive timeline for the duration of these outages, and it may vary by region. PG&E has been telling those affected to plan to be without power for up to 48 hours. After the fire risk passes, the company must inspect electrical lines and other equipment to make sure it is safe to turn power back on. These inspections can be lengthy, and while PG&E believes crews will start restoring services on Oct. 24, 2019, this schedule can change at any moment. More details and an estimated timeline can be found here.

What can I do?

To prepare for the upcoming power shortage, there are several steps you can take. We recommend keeping your smartphone fully charged, and preparing a robust external battery that can power your phone and multiple devices. It is also advisable to fill your gas tank, keep cash on hand, and prepare an emergency kit in the case of unexpected problems. For more information on preparing for this shutoff, go here.

Where can I get help?

If you need personal assistance as a result of the PG&E power shutoff, there are a number of resources available to you. PG&E has opened Community Resource Centers in affected areas, available during daylight hours with bottled water, charging stations, and bathrooms.

Will this happen again?

As of now, it is possible that similar shutoffs will happen again soon. Turning off the power is PG&E's current plan to reduce wildfire risk, and California's fire season typically peaks around October and November. Given we may see more outages before the end of the year, this could only be the start of these outages until a new plan is created. For more information go here.

Will my power go out if I have solar panels?

7 on Your Side's Michael Finney tells us most solar power systems will be affected, as they generally do not have power storage units of their own. Experts at Solar Technologies informed us that most solar home-owners use the power grid like one big battery. When the grid goes down, the majority of solar homes go down, too. There are some home systems that have battery back-up systems; The Tesla PowerWall is probably the most well-known. But those storage systems are not cheap, starting at about $12,000.

For the latest stories about PG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoff go here.