2:45 P.M. UPDATE: PG&E plans to restore power by midnight to 70 percent of customers in areas it proactively turned service off for fire safety. Areas include North Bay and Sierra Foothills.
Pacific Gas and Electric shut off power in parts of 12 Northern California counties late Sunday, including Lake and Napa counties, in the wake of high fire danger warnings.
Per PG&E, "Public Safety Power Shutoff" remains in effect for 17,000 customers in North Bay and 42,000 in the Sierra Foothills. "We continue to monitor the weather and will provide updates to our impacted customers in Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Amador, El Dorado and Calaveras counties," PG&E tweeted Monday morning.
High wind warnings were in effect in the Bay Area since Saturday, running through noon Monday. Gusty winds raise the fire danger substantially in areas where vegetation is already woefully dry.
PG&E turned off power to communities in the North Bay, affecting about 17,000 customers starting late Sunday evening. Those communities are: Lake County (Clearlake, Clearlake Oaks, Clearlake Park, Cobb, Finley, Hidden Valley Lake, Kelseyville, Lakeport, Lower Lake, Middletown); Napa County (Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Lake Berryessa, Napa, Pope Valley, Saint Helena); and Sonoma County (Cloverdale, Geyserville, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa).
The utility went ahead with the shutoff plan in some communities in the northern part of the state and near the Sierra Nevada as early as 5 p.m. Sunday and then expanded it down to some areas of the North Bay.
PG&E and county officials were contacting customers directly and providing early warning notification, when and where possible, via automated calls, texts, and emails.
Some school districts in Napa and Lake counties have canceled classes Monday due to the power shutoff. In Napa County, the Calistoga Joint Unified School District announced in a Facebook post that school is canceled; the Lake County districts cancelling classes include Kelseyville Unified, Konocti Unified, Lakeport Unified and Middletown Unified. Other school districts could be following suit by Monday morning.
In June, Cal Fire announced that the utility's "electric power and distribution lines, conductors and the failure of power poles", caused at least a dozen wildfires in six Northern California counties.
Power shutoffs such as those proposed by PG&E now are done strictly as a last resort during extreme weather conditions, the utility's statement said.
"The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is PG&E's top priority. We know how much our customers rely on electric service and would only consider temporarily turning off power in the interest of safety, and as a last resort during extreme weather conditions," said Kevin Dasso, PG&E's vice president of electric asset management, in a statement.
"PG&E has a plan. We want our customers to have plans, too," Dasso said.
In Sonoma County, "We put the wheels in motion immediately and are working diligently to prepare for any potential PG&E power shut downs," said County Supervisor James Gore. "This would be the first event of its kind in Sonoma County and we are ready for the challenges it may bring."
Sonoma County's Emergency Management Division has developed an Electrical System De-energization Response Plan and put it into motion given PG&E's plan, said Gore, who emphasized the county has no control over whether the power is actually turned off.