SAN DIEGO — As power outages continue across parts of California, San Diego Gas & Electric received multiple comments online from residents asking about the potential public safety power shutoffs and how they might be affected. Here's a list of the most frequently asked questions from their website.
Are you going to shut off power in my community?
The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for San Diego County valleys and mountains beginning noon Thursday, Oct. 10 and lasting through 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 12, due to gusty Santa Ana winds, low humidity and elevated fire danger in the backcountry.
To protect fire-prone communities in the far eastern and northern parts of San Diego County, SDG&E may need to turn off power to protect public safety.
Bases on the current weather trends, we anticipate the following communities could experience a Public Safety Power Shutoff:
- Banner Grade
- East Alpine
- East Ramona
- Mesa Grande
- Mt Laguna
- Palomar Mountain
- Pine Valley
- Rancho Santa Fe
- Santa Ysabel
- Valley Center
- West Valley Center
Will people who lose their power in the California outages also lose cellphone service?
Not exactly. It turns out that many of the providers have backup systems in place or operate emergency generators to make sure that service is still available.
In recent years with fires across the state, the California Public Utilities Commission urged cell providers to install backup power in high-risk locations. And many of them did that.
Will I be notified before you shut off my power?
Yes. On Tuesday evening (Oct. 8), SDG&E notified approximately 30,000 customers who live in high fire risk areas. These notifications were made via multiple channels: outbound dialer calls, text messages, and emails.
While 30,000 customers were notified, it does not mean all these customers will have their power turned off. In the past, the actual number of customers who were affected by public safety power shutoffs was smaller than the number of customers notified.
SDG&E will continue to communicate with customers throughout this weather event.
When will you shut off my power?
Since weather conditions are fluid and dynamic, we are not able to provide a specific time estimate as to when power may be turned off. Our plan is to provide customers notifications within 48 hours, 24 hours, and again 1-4 hours (if possible) before power is turned off.
Santa Ana winds are nothing new. Why can’t you build a stronger power system to withstand high winds?
Over the past decade, SDG&E has made significant improvements to its electric grid when it comes to wildfire preparedness, but when dangerous fire conditions are present, it is hard to prevent flying debris, such as a tarp or a palm frond from whipping through 80 mph wind gusts directly into power lines and sparking a fire.
Red Flag Warning weather conditions create significant risks for catastrophic wildfires and the difficult decision to turn off power is done as a safety precaution to eliminate a potential ignition source.
If you shut off my power, how long will it be out?
If power is shut off, it will remain out as long as the threat to our system and public safety continues –that is, as long as winds are creating a safety issue near and around our electric infrastructure. When the winds are reduced for a sustained time, our crews will then patrol the lines to check for system damage from wind-blown debris or any other problems before the power is turned on. Before we can restore power, crews must patrol lines to assess whether there is any damage. It is difficult to predict how long a patrol might take, given the varied length of each power line, the terrain and whether aerial patrols are required. Some circuits are in rural, mountainous areas that require a helicopter to patrol. In those cases, wind speeds need to be below 35 mph for the helicopter to fly safely.
In the past you have deployed a backup generator for downtown Julian. Will you do that again?
Yes, we plan to deploy a generator to power downtown Julian.
The power lines in my neighborhood are underground. Will I still be impacted by a power shutoff?
SDG&E’s electric grid is interconnected – one neighborhood that is underground might be fed from electric facilities that are above ground. We take our responsibility to safely operate our system very seriously. If weather conditions are causing a safety hazard that threatens the integrity of our system, SDG&E will turn off power on a circuit.