Posted on January 9, 2017

PG&E Storm Response Includes Planning for Next Wave

By Jennifer Robison

PG&E crews worked today (Jan. 9) to restore power across Northern and Central California ahead of another storm punch set to hit Tuesday and Wednesday.

About 3,500 company employees and contractors responded in the aftermath of a major winter storm that pummeled PG&E’s 77,000-square-mile service area with strong winds and heavy rain Saturday morning through Sunday night.

PG&E crews replace broken poles in Chico after a huge oak tree uprooted Sunday and fell, taking out electric lines along the street. (Photo by Paul Moreno.)

Storm-driven outages affected nearly 598,000 customers, including nearly 274,000 customers in the Bay Area. More than 97 percent of those customers saw power restored by early afternoon. Crews continued to work safely and as quickly as possible throughout the day to restore power for another 17,626 customers in areas affected by road closures, heavy snowfall or flooding.

In all, PG&E responded to 1,200 outages Sunday and today. The company also responded to 300 incidents of wires down, as wind gusts of up to 60 mph caused trees, limbs and other debris to fall into lines and damage equipment.

“It has been the type of performance that speaks to being prepared, as well as to all of our planning to improve our capabilities in emergency response. We have responded safely, without any significant employee injuries of any sort,” said Jason Regan, PG&E’s director of emergency management.

“For this long-duration storm, we’ve combined the effectiveness of our crews in the field with technology so that we can anticipate where the toughest-hit spots will be. The company’s storm outage prediction model played a key role in a successful response. The model forecasts the potential timing, location and number of power outages, allowing our teams to place resources where our customers need them most.”

A red truck in Novato is hit by falling trees as severe rain and winds pummeled much of PG&E's service area.

PG&E officials began putting crews and equipment in place a day before the storm hit, giving the company a head start on response.

Smaller storms in October and November, as well as a busy wildfire season, also allowed Emergency Management experts to refine response procedures.

That experience will be tested later this week: Even as PG&E continues to restore service following the weekend’s extreme weather, company officials are preparing for another storm Tuesday and Wednesday. The coming weather event is likely to be just as intense as the weekend’s front, Regan said.

PG&E is tapping mutual-aid agreements with utilities in Washington, Oregon and Arizona to bring in additional crews to add to restoration efforts. Officials are also working with first responders and county agencies to understand their needs.

“We’ve been responding to multiple events. It’s kept us fresh and it’s kept us sharp,” Regan said. “We’re going into Tuesday with the confidence that we will be able to support our customers. Our forecast shows there’s still significant risk out there. We’re managing to it, and we’re prepared for an equal, if not heavier, response this week.”

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"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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