PG&E is mobilizing personnel ahead of a significant winter storm that will arrive Thursday afternoon (March 9) and move across much of Northern and Central California on Friday, bringing with it significant rain, snow levels rising to 6,000 to 8,000 feet north to south in the Sierra, as well as strong wind gusts.
The incoming adverse weather could result in trees, limbs and other debris falling into powerlines, damaging equipment and interrupting electric service. PG&E’s meteorology department is warning of another challenge for customers and PG&E crews — flooding due to melting snow.
“The upcoming storm will be a strong and much warmer event. Significant rain, which could total three to seven inches in the mountains, on top of the existing snowpack, will present flooding risks,” said Scott Strenfel, PG&E director of Meteorology and Fire Science. “The wind combined with heavy rain and flooding risks can lead to access issues for our crews if trees fail and roadways flood, which can result in longer outage durations for some customers.”
Poised to respond to outages are PG&E electric crews, troublemen, distribution line technicians and system inspectors who serve as the utility’s first responders, along with personnel who will monitor electric incidents for public safety.
In addition, PG&E has opened its Emergency Operations Center and local operations emergency centers in impacted regions to more efficiently allocate crews, materials and other resources to restoration efforts.
The company is using its storm outage prediction models that help determine the potential timing, location, and number of power outages. The models allow the company to have extra crews on standby to deploy to areas hard hit by the storm. PG&E is also prestaging power poles, powerlines, transformers, and other electric equipment at yards throughout its service area to restore power to affected areas safely and as quickly as possible.
Predictions for incoming weather
Warmer and wet conditions are expected to return to the region Thursday as a moderately strong atmospheric river storm takes aim at the territory. Precipitation and wind then look to pick up in intensity Thursday afternoon and evening across Northern California and will spread southeast across the remainder of the state into early Friday.
Moderate to heavy rainfall with breezy to gusty winds and possibly isolated to scattered thunderstorms are expected to continue through Friday. Winds, and thunderstorm threats will then diminish during the afternoon and evening, with scattered precipitation continuing into early Saturday.
Snow levels look to raise above 5,000 feet across the North and possibly up to 8,000 to 10,000 feet across the central/southern Sierra Thursday evening into Friday. This could lead to a major snowmelt event across the state on top of flash flooding threats from new rainfall.
Keeping customers informed
Customers can view real-time outage information at PG&E’s online outage center and search by a specific address, by city or by county. This site has been updated to include support in 16 languages.
Additionally, customers can sign up for outage notifications by text, email, or phone. PG&E will let customers know the cause of an outage, when crews are on their way, the estimated restoration time and when power has been restored.
Storm safety tips
- Never touch downed wires: If you see a downed power line, assume it is energized and extremely dangerous. Do not touch or try to move it—and keep children and animals away. Report downed power lines immediately by calling 9-1-1 and then PG&E at 1-800-743-5002.
- Use generators safely: Customers with standby electric generators should ensure they are properly installed by a licensed electrician in a well-ventilated area. Improperly installed generators pose a significant danger to customers, as well as crews working on powerlines. If using portable generators, be sure they are in a well-ventilated area.
- Use flashlights, not candles: During a power outage, use battery-operated flashlights and not candles, due to the risk of fire. And keep extra batteries on hand. If you must use candles, please keep them away from drapes, lampshades, animals and small children. Do not leave candles unattended.
- Have a backup phone: If you have a telephone system that requires electricity to work, such as a cordless phone or answering machine, plan to have a standard telephone or cellular phone ready as a backup. Having a portable charging device helps to keep your cell phone running.
- Have fresh drinking water and ice: Freeze plastic containers filled with water to make blocks of ice that can be placed in your refrigerator/freezer to prevent food spoilage.
- Turn off appliances: If you experience an outage, unplug or turn off all electrical appliances to avoid overloading circuits and to prevent fire hazards when power is restored. Simply leave a single lamp on to alert you when power returns.
- Safely clean up: After the storm has passed, be sure to safely clean up. Never touch downed wires and always call 8-1-1 or visit 811express.com at least two full business days before digging to have all underground utilities safely marked.
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