In an ever-revolving carousel of wildfire-related dystopias and warnings, City of Berkeley officials announced Friday that residents living in the region's hills should evacuate before Sunday's extreme fire conditions — and PG&E's fire-safety shutoffs are now expected to leave some 143,000 Bay Area customers in the dark.
With Sunday's predicted 50+-mile-per-hour gusts and arid weather conditions, the National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Red Flag Warning that will go into effect across the entire Bay Area come Sunday evening and last up until Tuesday. Moreover, the NWS tweeted out Saturday that the "main period of concern will be Sunday night when damaging winds are forecast"; gusts north of 50 mph are said to be widespread throughout the region.
This graphic also offers a correction to the previous graphic's end time for the second Red Flag Warning.— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) October 24, 2020
But as the weather service noted: conditions in the East Bay will be particularly fit for wildfires, especially regarding those in the hill country — which is why Berkeley officials have suggested residents living in that area leave their homes "until the fire danger subsides."
"[Berkeley hills residents] should stay on heightened alert, keep phones charged and nearby, and consider leaving the hills before Sunday afternoon — especially if they would have trouble getting out quickly in a fire," said City of Berkeley City officials Friday night, according to the Chronicle. They also added that, if possible, those living in the Berkeley hills “should plan to stay elsewhere until fire danger subsides.”
And as we've now all come to accept as a new norm, PG&E is expected to roll out power shutoffs across the state that will affect over 466,000 customers starting Sunday; an online database of projected shutoffs from the utility company shows 143,000-plus of them will be Bay Area customers — though San Franciscans will be spared, apparently.
"The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our most important responsibility. PG&E's 24/7 Wildfire Safety Operations Center and our team of in-house meteorologists continue to monitor weather conditions for this potential Diablo offshore wind event arriving Sunday morning and lasting through Tuesday morning," said Michael Lewis, PG&E's Interim President, in a statement published by ABC7. The Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event has led to customers in 38 counties being notified that they should expect power shutoffs to start as early as Sunday morning.
"Initial forecasts indicate this could be our largest PSPS event this year so far," adds Lewis. "Our highest priority is to keep customers and communities safe and execute this event according to our plan and to then quickly restore power to all affected customers when it's safe to do so."
The Safety Action Center contains useful info that can help you prepare including:— PG&E (@PGE4Me) October 24, 2020
• A downloadable emergency plan
• An emergency kit quiz
• Tips to prepare for a power shutoff
• And a pledge to help your neighbors
Before any PSPS event, PG&E has made it a policy to notify all account holders in an area that will be affected by a PSPS several hours prior. At that time, too, the utility company will then give a broadly estimated power shutoff start time and restoration time; most PSPS incidents are resolved within twelve "daylight hours" after the conditions responsible for the PSPS have passed.
A windstorm (that's also coupled with severe wildfire conditions) like this hasn't been observed since the deadly and historic Kincade Fire of 2019, according to Santa Rosa Fire Department’s Paul Lowenthal.
"The last [windstorm of this level] we had was the Kincade Fire in 2019 and the wine country fires in 2017," Lowenthal adds to the local ABC affiliate. "[Firefighters] will be out patrolling those upper elevations, which we are going to pay close attention to, which are primarily our wildland and urban interface areas."
🌬️🌬️🌬️ A 20-year wind event is expected to hit the Bay Area starting Sun. 10/25. High winds can cause falling trees/branches, leading to injury. Fire dangers will also be extreme due to winds, low humidity, & dry vegetation. Some closures planned Sun-Mon...https://t.co/fqaGRNjEQK pic.twitter.com/srniP41Sm2— East Bay Regional Parks (@EBRPD) October 23, 2020
PG&E is suggesting people prepare accordingly — chill coolers to fill with perishables, charge portable batteries, etc. — ahead of Sunday. And in an extra bit of caution, the East Bay Regional Park District just announced they'll close eleven regional parks, among them Lake Chabot and Sibley Volcanic, from Sunday to Monday to mitigate the risk of wildfires.
Image: Unsplash via Dina Lydia