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Bay Area on edge waiting for strong winds, PG&E power shutoffs

SAN FRANCISCO – A second round of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power shutoffs was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Bay Area, but the utility said a changing weather pattern would likely result in a start time closer to 9 p.m. if not later.

The shutoff was expected to impact up to 137,000 customers in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara.

The first round of shutoffs started at midnight Wednesday and included a wide swath of Northern California. A third round could occur by 4 p.m. Thursday, impacting roughly 42,000 customers in Kern County.

Altogether, the utility said it expected the shutoffs to impact nearly 800,000 customers.

At a news conference Wednesday evening, PG&E Vice President Sumeet Singh said the utility would begin de-energizing power lines between 8 and 10 p.m. in the Bay Area.

“There is a shift in the timing of the weather pattern,” Singh said.

That pattern includes 20 to 30 mph winds with 45 to 55 mph gusts in the North Bay mountains and East Bay Hills and 15 to 25 mph winds with 34 to 45 mph gusts in the Santa Cruz Mountains, according to the National Weather Service forecast office in Monterey.

The winds, combined with acres of dry vegetation and low relative humidity, have led the weather service to issue a red flag warning for much of the Bay Area through Thursday.

Also included in the second round of shutoffs are the counties of Alpine, Mariposa, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz, Stanislaus and Tuolumne, as well as parts of Calaveras and Mendocino counties.

Officials said the process of restoring power is expected to begin about noon Thursday, though it wasn’t clear how long Bay Area residents might be without service.

But with high winds forecast until Thursday evening, PG&E has warned that the outages could last up to five days, noting that the process for restoring power includes inspecting equipment from the ground and the air as well as making any needed repairs.

“It could take several days to restore power,” Singh said. “We can only perform the visual inspections during daylight hours.”

The shutoffs are part of a controversial response by PG&E to reduce the risk of wildfires caused by its equipment.

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Source: East Bay Bay Area on edge waiting for strong winds, PG&E power shutoffs

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