By Mayra Tostado
SAN JOSE — After a series of late-season storms that toppled trees and damaged homes throughout the Bay Area, PG&E reminds customers to call 811 before replacing trees or starting any repair project that involves digging.
“Whether you are planning to do it yourself or hire a professional, you should always call 811 before each job to have underground utility lines marked,” said Don Hall, senior manager of PG&E’s San Jose and De Anza divisions. “It’s a free and easy service that protects public safety and helps avoid damage to utility lines, service interruptions and fines.”
Last year, there were more than 1,735 strikes on PG&E’s underground infrastructure. Of those dig-ins, more than 55 percent had not called ahead to have underground utility lines properly marked. In 2016, the average cost to those who damaged PG&E’s underground utility lines, including fines and repairs, amounted to $7,500.
Customers, excavators and contractors can also get a free safe-digging ticket using the new and convenient tool: 811express.com. Contractors are required by law to contact 811 at least two working days prior to excavation. Failing to contact 811 may result in costly fines and project delays.
The top four cities for dig-ins to utility lines in Bay Area without a call to 811 this year are:
- San Francisco: 21
- Oakland: 16
- San Jose: 13
- Berkeley: 9
More than 181 dig-ins have occurred year to date in PG&E’s service area because a call to 811 wasn’t made.
Since the beginning of 2017, the Bay Area has experienced more than 1,450 power outages caused by vegetation — impacting a total of 545,125 customers. The vast majority of outages were caused by tree root failure often associated with saturated soil. Douglas firs, redwoods and Monterey pines were the primary species involved, with limb failure being the second most-common cause of outages.
Breakdown of vegetation-caused outages in the Bay Area this year:
- North Bay — 688 outages affecting 205,017 customers
- Peninsula — 273 outages/94,892 customers
- South Bay — 268 outages/110,873 customers
- East Bay — 204 outages/126,674 customers
- San Francisco — 17 outages/7,670 customers
- Total — 1,450 outages/545,125 customers
In 2016, the Bay Area experienced 1,074 outages caused by vegetation, affecting 297,590 customers. In just a little more than three months, PG&E has already experienced approximately 1.5 times as many vegetation-caused outages as it did in 2016.
To help crews locate and remove vegetation that toppled on or near electric infrastructure this year, PG&E brought in additional resources from its Yosemite division.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.