Schools are shut down across the Bay Area, a wildfire hits Moraga, and PG&E’s website notification efforts continue to be a master class in corporate bungling.
The delayed outages in the widespread PG&E northern California blackouts did in fact start to hit Wednesday night, and as of 7 a.m. today, as many as two million people in central and northern California are without electricity. The Chronicle reports that Alameda County and much of Oakland lost their power around 11 p.m. Wednesday night, while KPIX adds that stretches from San Mateo County through Santa Cruz also got their blackouts before midnight. According to KRON 4, nine schools in Oakland are closed, as is UC Berkeley, and dozens of other districts across northern California are not holding classes today.
PG&E is being maddeningly vague about power restoration times, simply saying that “customers are being asked to prepare for an extended outage.”
The outages are intended to prevent the spread of wildfires during a dry, high-wind period, and a fast-moving wildfire did hit Moraga last night, per the Mercury News. Roughly 140 homes near St. Mary’s College were evacuated, and frankly, you’ve got to hand it to Contra Costa sheriff and fire officials for pulling that off when the area had more or less no electricity. No homes were destroyed and no one was injured, and as of 9:30 this morning, the Merc reports that fire is 70 percent contained.
PG&E just launched a new website to provide information about its forced power outages because the regular company site kept slowing and crashing.— J.D. Morris (@thejdmorris) October 10, 2019
This is what happens when you click on the new site right now. #pgeshutdown #pgeoutage pic.twitter.com/uG4xFnYxXz
But while many local officials and first responders are doing yeoman’s work, PG&E is gonna PG&E. After the relentlessly crashing failure of their previous online outage-lookup system, the utility launched a new Public Safety Power Shutoff lookup site Tuesday. According to KPIX, “The utility sent a tweet out with the new link but promptly deleted it around 8 p.m. Wednesday evening, indicating it may not have been ready to go live.” They retweeted a new link an hour later, which also did not work. (We will acknowledge the the site is working now, and we even took the screenshot at the top of this post directly from it.)
Update, 3:30pm Wed: If you are power-dependent for medical reasons and in a potential shutoff area, please use your own resources to relocate to an unaffected area. If unable to relocate and power loss will cause immediate life threat, call 911 for transport to an Emergency Room. pic.twitter.com/JtR2EIY06g— City of Berkeley (@CityofBerkeley) October 9, 2019
Some city officials have handled their outages in similarly less-than-outstanding fashion. The City of Berkeley drew all manner of online mockery for their “please use your own resources to relocate” verbiage in the tweet above. (Seriously, the comments on that one are golden.) A Morgan Hill curfew last night also drew comparisons to horror film plotlines.
Even those of us with power fall anywhere from inconvenienced to frightened on the general spectrum, and Gov. Gavin Newsom earned a tiny fiddle yesterday over the hassle these blackouts create for his fancy wineries. “We’re in the middle of wine crush and folks are running around trying to get generators right now,” he told the Chronicle. Contrast that with the Chron's piece on elderly patients in rural areas and how the blackouts affect them. But with potentially millions statewide without power, some now going for two days, it’s truly a relief that — knock on wood — there are no fatalities associated with the outages.