Update: 21,000 people in Berkeley could lose power in upcoming outage

Power lines in Berkeley. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Update, Saturday, 5:15 p.m. PG&E now estimates the Berkeley blackout will begin at 8 p.m. Saturday. See the latest.

Update, Friday, Oct. 25, 11:50 a.m. See the latest news on Berkeleyside about the upcoming outage, which is set to begin Saturday at 5 p.m.

Update, 9:25 p.m. City spokesman Matthai Chakko said about 7,000 PG&E customers in Berkeley — which by some estimates represents 21,000 people — could lose power this weekend in the planned outage. The city says everyone should look up their address in the just-released PG&E map, sign up for AC Alert and check out the city’s new website about planned outages. PG&E has asked people to update their contact info by calling 866-743-6589 during normal business hours.

Chakko said the outage could last through Monday, and that PG&E has said people should be ready to live without power for another six days beyond that. He said people who live in the fire zone must prepare to evacuate and take all steps they can to ensure roadways and access into the hills are clear.


“They need to take action,” he said.

Chakko said the city will increase police patrols in the fire zone and also stage fire trucks so they are near the highest-risk areas. He said people should pay close attention to alerts about the weather, as the situation could change at any time, with the outage coming sooner or the affected area getting bigger.

“We don’t want people to be afraid unnecessarily but we want to get the information out,” he said. The city will share emergency information over the radio at 1610 AM and will put fliers with critical information at the library, particularly in the case of a loss of cellphone coverage. The city plans to offer free wifi access 24/7 during the outage outside city libraries, which will offer charging stations inside during the day.

“There is real wildfire danger and so people need to prepare for that,” Chakko said. “It’s something people need to take seriously.”

Update, 8:55 p.m. One resident in the Berryman neighborhood in North Berkeley said he and some of his neighbors got a “safety alert” text from PG&E at about 8:50 p.m. The text was brief: “Due to weather forecast, PG&E may turn off power in a portion of our service area.” It directed him to its website for details. As of 9 p.m., the page still had not been updated since Wednesday night and Alameda County had not been added.

PG&E has also released a new map showings areas that could see their power cut. Look up your address to see if your location might actually be affected because not all areas in the map are included.

PG&E’s latest outage map highlights areas that could see their power cut. Source: PG&E

Original story: Alameda County has officially joined the list of counties that may face a public safety power shutoff from Saturday through Monday, but little is known about what that may mean for Berkeley.

The Alameda County sheriff’s office tweeted Thursday at 5:15 p.m. about a possible power shutoff in the county, writing that it could begin Saturday at 5 p.m. and last through Monday at 2 p.m., with 57,000 customers affected.

Berkeley officials say they have a regional conference call with PG&E scheduled for Friday morning and will know more after that. Beyond that, not much information was available Thursday night.

PG&E hasn’t updated its list of counties that may lose power since Wednesday night and has not posted a new media release since Monday. As of that time, 209,000 customers in portions of 15 counties were on the list, but those figures have grown during the week. Berkeleyside has asked PG&E for updated information.

The county says it has a map related to the planned power outages but that it is not available to the public.

Just before 5:40 p.m. Thursday, Councilwoman Sophie Hahn emailed her constituents about the possible outage, writing, “we have just learned that parts of Alameda County and possibly Berkeley may be subject to power shutoffs in the coming days. We have no detailed information at this time, but will provide updates as we receive more information. Please check the City of Berkeley’s website and local news regularly, and please sign up for AC Alert, if you have not already done so.”

Hahn wrote that anyone in Berkeley with accessibility needs or life-sustaining medical equipment that could be compromised during an outage should call the city at 311 or 510-981-2489.

The National Weather Service has issued a “fire weather watch” and a “high wind watch” in the Bay Area, with high winds expected from Saturday night through Monday morning.

Current Bay Area weather conditions. Image: National Weather Service

The weather service said “dangerously strong offshore winds” are in the forecast for the East Bay Hills and other parts of the region.

According to the National Weather Service website, “Another offshore wind event will develop Saturday Night into Sunday. This event looks to be the strongest of this year and since the 2017 wine country fires. Strong northeast winds will only slowly ease later Sunday and persist right through Monday morning. This will be a long duration and extreme wind event.”

The weather service is reporting northeast winds from 15-30 mph, with frequent gusts of 45-55 mph and local gusts of 65-75 mph. The winds and low humidity mean “any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly.”

A Spare the Air alert has been issued for Friday.

Air quality in Berkeley — which is part of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Coast and Central Bay zone — is expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups Friday.

If parts of Berkeley lose power this weekend, it will be the second planned outage for the city this month. The first incident, which lasted from Oct. 10-11, affected at least 3,500 customers in Berkeley.

Berkeleyside will report more details as soon as they are available. Sign up for breaking news alerts to get the latest critical information.

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