By KAREN VELIE
PG&E announced it may shut off power for 224 customers in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties on Monday morning because anticipated dry, windy conditions could lead to an increase risk of fires.
The utility’s meteorologists are monitoring a potential weather system that could bring dry, gusty offshore winds to portions of California. PG&E sent notices on Saturday of the proposed outage to 44,000 customers in 32 counties, including 205 in San Luis Obispo County and 19 in Santa Barbara County with properties near or in the Los Padres National Forest.
To check if your if your address will be affected by a possible shutoff, visit PG&E’s website.
The utility received criticism during a California Public Utilities Commission public briefing in August about their “public safety outages.” During the briefing, the commission’s President Marybel Batjer stressed the importance of limiting outages.
“Unlike other mitigation strategies, these PSPS events have very real and very direct impacts to customers,” Batjer said. “It is trading individual risk to customers for reducing wildfire risk. At risk in a PSPS event are people’s lives and their livelihoods.”
During the past several months, rural residencies in northern San Luis Obispo County have been pummeled by frequent power outages leaving many PG&E customers without power for about 40 hours a week.
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.
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.
Because of financial losses to both businesses and the public, a group of concerned PG&E customers in San Luis Obispo County are circulating a petition alleging the utility is no longer providing reliable power. They plan to send the petition to the California Public Utilities Commission in the next few days.