[Oct 14, PD]
Due to dangerous fire weather conditions, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. on Wednesday evening will begin cutting power to customers in Sonoma County to prevent its equipment from sparking any new blazes, utility officials said.
An estimated 1,777 customers are expected to lose electricity in Sonoma County starting around 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras.
Most affected customers are in unincorporated parts of the county, including areas east of Cloverdale, Asti, Geyserville and the Porter Creek area near Calistoga Road, as well as areas near Kenwood and Glen Ellen. About 100 customers in the city of Sonoma will also likely face outages, according to PG&E officials.
The utility expects to have power restored for most of those areas by 10 p.m. Friday.
View a map of outage areas here.
Across Northern California, PG&E began notifying roughly 53,000 customers in 24 counties on Wednesday that they should expect to lose power. In Napa County, 9,221 customers will likely have their electricity cut, while 82 customers are set to be impacted in Lake County.
The planned shut-offs follow a red flag warning that went into effect early Wednesday morning for a majority of the North Bay, signaling that gusty winds and hot, dry weather conditions are expected to increase fire danger in the region for much of this week.
The warning, which covers the North Bay mountains and valleys, will last through 11 a.m. Friday.
The National Weather Service forecast 15-30 mph winds from the northeast to arrive in the North Bay mountains early Wednesday, with the strongest gusts reaching up to 55 mph at some peaks by later in the night. In the lower valleys, 10-20 mph winds with gusts up to 30 mph were forecast into Wednesday, including over the area where the Glass fire burned.
On Wednesday, the weather service announced a wind advisory for the North Bay mountains and foothills starting 10 p.m. Wednesday through 11 a.m. Thursday. In addition to the increased fire risk, the agency warns of downed trees and power lines causing outages.
Forecasters expect the winds to subside Thursday morning but pick up again that evening, though with less intensity than on Wednesday night.
Meteorologists also forecast an “extremely dry air mass” to move into the area Wednesday, drastically lowering humidity levels across the North Bay.
“That means it’s probably going to stay dry for some time... dry conditions could last well into next week,” said Brayden Murdock, a meteorologist with the weather service.
A warming trend that began last weekend will likely push local high temperatures to the mid 90s by Wednesday afternoon and the upper 90s by Thursday and Friday, according to the weather service.
As a result, the weather service announced a heat advisory on Wednesday starting 11 a.m. Thursday through 9 p.m. Friday. Residents are cautioned to stay inside as much as possible during the hottest parts of those days.
Ahead of the critical fire weather conditions, all local Cal Fire units have returned from battling blazes elsewhere in the state, according to Cal Fire officials.
Local Sonoma County fire departments, meanwhile, are increasing staffing and working together to form joint strike teams to respond to new starts, according to fire officials. At least a dozen additional engine crews will be ready to fight potential fires in Sonoma and neighboring counties.
The extreme fire weather comes as firefighters as of Wednesday morning reached 97% containment of the Glass fire, which ignited Sept. 27 on the eastern rim of the Napa Valley during a red flag warning and was driven by windblown embers to the eastern edge of Santa Rosa.
(courtesy The Press Democrat)