By KAREN VELIE
Three large outages in north San Luis Obispo County have left 4,116 PG&E customers without power Friday morning, as lengthy outages have become daily occurrence in rural areas.
The lights went out in parts of Atascadero and Creston for 1,696 PG&E customers at 6:35 a.m. The utility estimates power will be restored before noon.
Businesses already compromised by the pandemic have been forced to discard food and cut hours because of the frequent power outages.
Shortly after 9 a.m., more than 1,000 PG&E customers lost power from Templeton to Lake Nacimiento, causing many issues with wineries in the middle of harvest and crush, some of whom are wrapping their juice tanks in ice as they await the return of power. PG&E estimates the power will be back on at 3:30 p.m.
At 6:36 a.m., 1,417 PG&E customers in parts of Santa Margarita, Atascadero, Creston and Pozo lost power. As of 11:30 a.m., 926 of the customers remain without power, according to PG&E. The utility estimates the power will be back on before noon.
However, recent North County outages have been lasting about 20 hours, while in most cases PG&E estimated power would be restored four to five hours after the outages began.
PG&E officials blame a new “fast trip” feature that automatically shuts off power when an object strikes a line in order to prevent equipment-sparked wildfires, which may need to be reset. PG&E has not responded to questions about how long it will take them to reset the fast trip feature.
Because of this, a tree branch or a bird hitting a wire can lead to a lengthy power outage.
Once an outage occurs, crews embark on a lengthy inspection process of all wires in the area, which must take place during daylight hours. Power is then restored to customers in stages as individual portions of the inspection process are completed.