Nearly 800,000 Pacific Gas and Electric customers are preparing for their power to be intentionally cut for what could be the largest deliberate power shut-off in California’s history.
A Red Flag Warning is being issued over the next few days with strong winds expected to make the risk of wildfire extremely high.
The outages are expected to start as early as Wednesday at midnight and could last until mid-day on Thursday. They may affect millions of people living in 34 counties.
While 34 northern and central California counties are included on the list, PG&E said it won’t be every customer within those county lines.
“It’s not the entire county, it’s going to be portions of each county,” Paulo told FOX40.
The following counties and cities could be impacted by the shut-offs:
To get outage alerts, you can text “enroll” to 97633 or call 866-743-6589. You can also text your zip code to 888777 to receive Nixle alerts.
“Best way to find out if you’re included in this potential Public Safety Power Shutoff is to go to our website,” said PG&E spokesperson Lynsey Paulo.
But PG&E’s website has been down for most of Tuesday, crashing due to the high volume of customers visiting to find out if they’ll lose power.
“Traffic on our website has increased by about seven to eight times what it normally is right now,” Paulo explained. “So, we are having some issues with our website that we’re trying to work out with our IT folks. Again, you can call our 1-800 number to get more information.”
That number is 1-866-743-6589.
Sacramento County will not be impacted. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District told FOX40 it is not planning any preventative power shut-offs.
But in every other county with a power-down, PG&E will be opening community resource centers.
“For charging of your cell phone, for information. There will be water available and it’s really just a space that people can go,” Paulo said.
Community resource centers will be set up at the following locations during daylight hours for customers who have been affected by the shut-offs:
Meanwhile, Cal Fire agrees, the risk of wildfires from Wednesday morning until Thursday afternoon is extremely high because the winds could kick up to more than 10 mph.
“It is also the time when everything is at its driest,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Amy Head. “There’s not much fuel moisture left in the vegetation.”
The Red Flag Warning could create the same conditions as when the Camp Fire started last year or when the North Bay fires started the year before that.
“For some, this is an inconvenience. For some, it’s much more than that,” Paulo said. “We don’t make this decision lightly. This is for public safety because the conditions are so high right now.”
PG&E and firefighters are also warning that backup power generators may not be the best idea either. Already, several small fires have started over the past few weeks from people not properly using their power generators.
Two years ago this week, the Tubbs Fire destroyed thousands of homes in Sonoma and Napa counties and killed 22 people.
And next month will mark the one-year anniversary of the Camp Fire, which devastated the community of Paradise and claimed 85 lives.
According to Cal Fire, the state's top five most destructive fires in terms of structures lost all happened between September and November, with three of them in October. They all occurred during periods of gusty wind and low humidity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.