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The Power Apocalypse is About to Hit the Bay Area

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Update, 1:50 p.m.: PG&E tortures residents by postponing the scheduled shutoff in many East Bay cities until 8 p.m. Wednesday evening.

A bunch of kids woke up today in parts of Northern California thrilled that schools were closed, that is until they realized their phones won’t charge and microwaves can’t cook Hot Pockets without the magic power juice.

The apocalyptic power shutoff across California is a response to National Weather Service forecasts of gusty winds that could reach up to 70 mph in some areas by Thursday. High winds coupled with dry conditions and PG&E’s track record of downed power lines is a recipe for fire that the now bankrupt energy provider is trying to avoid. The shutoff is expected to impact as many as 800,000 customers across the state for up to five days.

Initial PG&E map of areas to be impacted by Public Safety Power Shutoff Wednesday, October 9, 2019.

Things could get ugly for the tech-addicted but there are more serious concerns about basics like food storage and traffic safety as refrigerators and signals cease to do their jobs. Cities and counties are frantically establishing community resources to help the most vulnerable populations, like small children and elderly residents.

The PG&E website is spotty, to say the least, with a high volume of traffic, but people can register for alerts in their area by texting “ENROLL” to 97633.

According to PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff event site, the electricity was cut at midnight in parts of Amador, Butte, Calaveras , Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo and Yuba counties.

Portions of an additional 12 counties, including four in the Bay Area, are scheduled for shutoff at noon Wednesday, meaning things are about to get ugly in Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

More than 32,000 customers are expected to impacted in the Alameda County cities of Oakland, Castro Valley, Fremont, Union City, Berkeley, Hayward, San Leandro, Sunol, Pleasanton, Livermore. The county offers an alert system that residents should register for at ACAlert.org.

Oakland schools may close Thursday — parents should check the district site for updates.

Classes are canceled at University of California at Berkeley Wednesday and although Caltrans is attempting to shore up generated power, the agency may have to close the Caldecott Tunnels if they lose power needed for operation.

In Contra Costa County, more than 51,000 customers will be hit in parts of San Ramon, Orinda, Lafayette, Moraga, Pinole, Richmond, Kensington, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Berkeley, Canyon, San Pablo, Pittsburg, Rodeo, Concord, Albany, Antioch and Martinez. Contra Costa County alerts can be found at https://cwsalerts.com/.

In San Mateo County, just shy of 15,000 customers will be impacted by the outage in cities of Half Moon Bay, El Granada, Woodside, Moss Beach, Montara, Portola Valley, Pescadero, La Honda, Redwood City, San Gregorio, Loma Mar, San Mateo, Menlo Park, Emerald Hills, Pacifica, Princeton, Davenport and Palo Alto. Alerts for San Mateo County can be found at https://hsd.smcsheriff.com/smcalert.

More than 38,000 of our South Bay neighbors are expected to get hit in Santa Clara County across the cities of San Jose, Morgan Hill, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Redwood Estates, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Coyote, Gilroy, Mount Hamilton, Palo Alto and Holy City. San Mateo County alerts can be found on their website.

Some basic safety tips to remember during the power outage:

  • Arrange alternate power sources, lights, chargers, batteries and other necessities such as food and water prior to midnight Wednesday.
  • Avoid perishable foods held in the “temperature danger zone” of 41° F to 135° F.
  • Do not use coals to barbecue during gusty wind weather events.
  • Do not idle vehicles in affected hills.
  • Do not use tools that produce heat, such as lawn mowers.
  • Exercise caution while driving, riding or walking on streets where traffic signals are out.
  • Do not call 911 unless you need to report an actual emergency.

Good luck out there in the dark!

 

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.