Oroville residents prepare for possible public safety power shutoff

Local News

OROVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — The people of Oroville are a hardy population. They experienced the threat of a catastrophic dam collapse in 2017, and many have fled their homes multiple times because of wildfires.

Public safety power shutoffs — like mandatory evacuations — have become a part of life.

“We prepare — we have a lot of canned goods,” Oroville resident Shane Roush said. “We make sure we get a lot of charcoal for the barbecue, do a lot of outdoor cooking because we’re full electric. We got rid of gas a long time ago.”

Roush and his family are ready for Tuesday’s potential public safety power shutoff in their neighborhood, east of downtown Oroville. But, based on past experience, he’s bracing for some inconveniences.

“The second day of power outages is when the generators stop on the cell towers,” Roush said. “And then it becomes a huge inconvenience.”

PG&E considers many factors when calling for a safety power shutoff, Megan McFarland, a spokesperson for the utility said.

“Some of those things are low-humidity levels — generally 30% or below,” McFarland said.

The utility also looks at wind speeds.

“Sustained winds over 20 mph, and then gusts at 30 to 40,” McFarland said. “We look at the material on the ground — like is it particularly dry? Is there a low moisture content of vegetation?”

McFarland said this year the decision-making process evolved to also account for the presence of trees tall enough to strike power lines.

Roush said he appreciates PG&E acknowledging past missteps but hopes future ones can be avoided.

“You know, PG&E made some mistakes in the past and they need to own up to it,” Roush said. “And it’s good that they’ve owned up to some of their mistakes. And we don’t want any more future mistakes.”

What Oroville resident Julie Hollingshead wants from PG&E is more consistency. She said the morning of the Camp Fire in Paradise, her power was not shut off even though PG&E alerted neighbors that it might be.

“We got the message, we got prepared, they didn’t turn it off,” Hollingshead said. “And the fire came. And we lost our house. So it’s like, are you going to turn it off? Sometimes it wasn’t even windy.”

For more information about power shutoffs, click or tap here.

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