Update: Outage now set to start Saturday at 8 p.m. (and it could change again)

Power lines in Berkeley against a blue sky.
Power lines in Berkeley: The city was bracing for another power shutoff on Saturday, Oct. 26. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Update, 5:45 p.m. PG&E says Phase 1 shutoffs began at 5 p.m. Saturday in Amador, Butte, El Dorado, Glenn, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, Sierra, Shasta, Tehama and Yuba counties, and will be followed by outages in Colusa, Marin, Mendocino (south), Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties at 6 p.m.

Next will be Alameda, Contra Costa, Monterey, San Benito, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Stanislaus counties at 8 p.m. followed by Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Siskiyou and Trinity counties at 9 p.m. The last two phases are set to take place Sunday, for Alpine, Calaveras, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties at 12:01 a.m. and Kern County at 9 p.m.

The Bay Area zone affects approximately 246,000 customers with restoration efforts currently scheduled to begin Monday at 8 a.m., said PG&E on Saturday evening. Wind speeds are forecast to reach 35-45 mph with gusts of 55-65 mph.

PG&E described this as a “very large event for us to manage,” but Mark Quinlan, senior director for PG&E’s Emergency Preparedness and Response, said in a 5:30 p.m. press briefing that the agency is confident it can handle.


Update, 3:35 p.m. PG&E has updated its schedule for a planned power shutoff, again, and the new estimated outage time for those who will be affected in Alameda County is now Saturday at 8 p.m. In a press release issued around 3:15 p.m., the utility said the latest “de-energization times” could change again, and be earlier or later, depending on the weather. The schedule for other counties has changed, too.

Original story: PG&E has updated its timeline for a large power outage set to affect nearly 1 million customers throughout the state with the news that the Alameda County portion of the shutoff will begin Saturday at 5 p.m.

Earlier in the week, PG&E had estimated 5 p.m. as the Alameda County start time for the outage, but said in a conference call with the media Friday evening that it would not start until 7 p.m. Now plans have changed again.

The outage, according to the latest statement from PG&E, is driven by a “historic wind event” forecast to create dangerous fire weather conditions through midday Monday. The outage — Berkeley’s second this month — is set to affect 940,000 customers across 36 counties, according to PG&E.

“Widespread dry, hot and windy weather is expected to begin impacting the service area today between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.,” PG&E wrote in a statement released Saturday at about 11 a.m. “As this weather system sweeps from north to south over a period of two to three days, PG&E customers across Northern and Central California will feel the effects of hot, dry winds at different times, which means outage times will vary as well.”

PG&E says customers should look up their address on its website for the most accurate information on whether they will lose power.

Saturday’s outage will take place in six phases, PG&E said, beginning at 2 p.m. for Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, Sierra, Siskiyou, Shasta, Tehama and Yuba counties. Then, at 4 p.m., power is set to be cut to Lake, Marin, Mendocino (south), Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties.

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Alameda County is scheduled to be part of the third phase of cutoffs, beginning at 5 p.m., along with Contra Costa, Monterey, San Benito, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Stanislaus counties.

Phases 4 and 5 are set to start at 5 p.m., too, for portions of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties as well as Alpine, Calaveras, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties. The final phase, for Kern County, is slated to begin Sunday at 10 a.m.

PG&E estimates that 57,002 customers, including nearly 1,300 medical baseline customers who rely on electricity in some way for health conditions, will be affected. Berkeley said earlier this week that 7,000 customers in Berkeley may be affected, which represents an estimated 21,000 people.

Even though officials have said with certainty that power will be cut in parts of Alameda County, PG&E’s language in its address locator tool remains somewhat ambiguous even for addresses expected to affected, with the message saying only that “PG&E may need to turn off power for public safety at this address in the next 12 hours. As we continue to monitor conditions, please prepare for outages that could last longer than 48 hours.”

Authorities have cautioned repeatedly that weather conditions could change at any time, which could affect outage plans.

Berkeleyside will be on duty Saturday evening to report outage impacts as they happen. Please share weather- and outage- related tips, photos and videos with Berkeleyside. For more news on Berkeley’s upcoming outage, see Friday’s story.

More resources

Read the full Oct. 26 notice from PG&E. See full outage coverage on Berkeleyside.