UPDATE: PG&E says it no longer plans to shut off power in those eight Northern California counties.
COLFAX -- The Pacific Gas and Electric Company sent recorded phone messages to customers in eight Northern California counties, alerting them to the possibility that power may be shut off "to protect public safety" during a period of high fire danger.
Thursday's forecast called for gusty north winds and minimum daytime humidity between 5 percent and 15 percent, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a Red Flag Warning for a large portion of Northern California between Wednesday night and Friday morning.
The affected areas include the Sacramento Valley, Delta, Clear Lake area, Sierra west slope and foothills, as well as portions of the Northern San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area and wine country. The counties PG&E announced for its outages are:
Sonoma County was originally listed by PG&E removed the area due to changing weather conditions.
“We know how much our customers rely on electric service and the impacts these events can have on our customers, their families and communities," said PG&E Senior Vice President of Electric Operations Pat Hogan in a written statement this week. "We will only consider temporarily turning off power in the interest of safety and as a last resort during extreme weather conditions to reduce the risk of wildfire."
PG&E power lines were determined to be the cause of some of 2017's devastating wine country fires during periods of dry, windy weather conditions.
In Colfax, one of the communities facing potential power outages, staff members at both Sierra Market and Hills Flat Lumber Company hardware store said customers have been stocking up on supplies. The hardware store was selling propane, candles, flashlights and lanterns. Customers were also buying and renting generators.
If power is shut off, it won't be the first time PG&E cut power as a precaution in Northern California.
"I'm thinking about just closing down for the day if it's going to be a whole day thing," said Delaney Schmitz, manager of Ship It and More in Colfax.
The store lost power during a precautionary power outage during a period of Red Flag warnings in October.
"It was pretty bad, especially having a baby at the store. I couldn't microwave her bottles," Schmitz recalled. "Or anybody that came in, I couldn't do anything for them. So I told them they had to leave. I lost a lot of customers and business."
But Schmitz said she understands the company's reasoning.
"I think it's understandable because, I mean, I'd rather lose a little business than lose my whole place," Schmitz explained.
More information about the potential outages is available on PG&E's website. California residents can check the California Public Utilities Commission's fire threat map for more information on the conditions in their area.
Cal Fire is at peak staffing levels, according to public information officer Mary Eldridge. Crews are in place, ready to respond to any fires that may break out.
"One spark could mean a fire," Eldridge said of the expected conditions.
Cal Fire is asking the public to take the warnings seriously, avoiding any activity that could start a fire. Drivers are urged to make sure their vehicles are not dragging parts or chains that might make sparks. Lawnmowers with metal blades should not be used in dry grass.
"And this is something that we normally say in the summertime: Don't mow after 10 a.m.," Eldridge advised. "But here we are in November, we're talking about hiking and how beautiful it is to be outside, the conditions are still ripe for a fire."
The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office had to let customers in their county know there would not be any planned outages after PG&E sent a message out to some residents in error.