For reasons that are unclear, despite shutting off power for over a million Californians already this morning, PG&E has said it will be delaying planned power outages for several Bay Area counties until 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Contra Costa County tweeted the update from PG&E just before 1 p.m. Wednesday after an expected noon outage failed to happen. Reporters at a news conference this morning, broadcast by ABC 7 and others, questioned a PG&E spokesman about the reasons behind the planned shutoff, whether it was out of an abundance of caution, and whether its breadth was entirely necessary, and he was unable to give much of an answer beyond, "The situation is fluid."
@PGE4Me is reporting the PSPS is delayed until 8:00 p.m. If we learn of more information we will post it.— Contra Costa County (@CCCounty) October 9, 2019
The shutoff now set for 8 p.m. Wednesday will affect parts of Oakland, Berkeley, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, Pinole, Pittsburg, Richmond, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek, among other areas.
National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Steven Anderson tells KRON 4 that wind gusts of 40 miles per hour have already been recorded Wednesday, and these are expected to move south as the day moves on.
The NWS's Hannah Chandler-Cooley explained to the New York Times that these are northerly winds, which only occur a few days out of the year in California, and they are, in fact, especially dangerous when it comes to knocking down trees.
1:30 pm - Present wind gusts in the North Bay Mtns are in the 15-30 mph range. Gusts will significantly increase during the period of greatest concern overnight and into early Thursday when gusts in the mtns will reach 45-55 mph, locally 65 mph. #CAwx pic.twitter.com/sy8fNZ6SGH— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) October 9, 2019
Meanwhile, the power is off in large parts of Sonoma County and elsewhere, and at least one Sonoma resident claims the winds aren't so evident everywhere.
In Sonoma county now, drove 30 minutes over the hill where my parents power is also out STILL no sign of high winds and it’s 70 degrees out. You keep sitting on your golden throne in Calabasas and leave the talking to the adults that are actually being affected #poweroutage pic.twitter.com/IYmPuqXRQo— Christian Diaz (@Bigpapi233) October 9, 2019
The magnitude of the power shutoffs, their potential human impacts, and how long it will take to get the power back on for huge swaths of the state remain big unknowns. As the Times discusses, PG&E speaks in terms of "customers," but a single power customer might be an entire IKEA store, or an apartment building, so the numbers we're hearing don't actually reflect the impacts. It's possible that several million people will be affected before this is all said and done.
In this morning press conference, the PG&E rep referred to the fact that the mileage of power lines that will need to be inspected before the power can come back on is enough to circle the equator — some 25,000 miles or more. A PG&E vice president, Sumeet Singh, said in a Tuesday briefing that it could take as long as five days for "every inch" of these lines to be inspected by technicians.
Adding to the chaos, and completely unsurprisingly, PG&E's website remains down. You can't expect them to have updated server capacity for events like this when half the state needs information from them, right?