For millions of liberal Californians, especially those living in the immediate proximity of Berkeley, socialism is always and only the answer. And while we doubt they would voluntarily move to Venezuela to personally experience the fruits such a regime brings, especially in its final stages, nearly 1 million Californians are about to enjoy one of the biggest benefits of living in a socialist regime: lack of electricity.
Nearly 800,000 customers of bankrupt utility PG&E will lose power starting just after midnight as the embattled utility launches a (long-overdue) effort yet to avoid starting a wildfire in extremely dry and windy weather.
On Tuesday, PG&E said that it will proceed with the massive outages it has been considering this week, and adding 200,000 additional customers into the mix. Shutoffs will take place in every county in the Bay Area except San Francisco and will also occur in some of the far northern and southern corners of PG&E’s service area, reaching 34 counties, which means that San Franciscans will still be able to see when they are about to walk into human shit on the street.
Late Monday, PG&E released estimates of how many customers in each county the shut-offs could affect. The estimates included 32,613 customers in Alameda; 40,219 in Contra Costa; 32,124 in Napa; 38,123 in Santa Clara; 14,766 in San Mateo; 32,862 in Solano; and 66,289 in Sonoma. Updated figures weren’t available with Tuesday’s update that Marin would be included. A single customer account might be a residence or business with multiple people, so the number of people who lose power might reach in the millions.
The communities who will be affected by the outages has grown since PG&E’s initial estimate on Monday, with portions of Marin, Humboldt, Trinity, Santa Barbara and Kern counties now added to the list. PG&E said communities as will lose power at different times “depending on local timing of the severe wind conditions,” starting in the north.
The shutoffs are intended to prevent PG&E equipment from starting the kind of wildfires they were responsible in October 2017, when the company’s power lines started a series of fires in the North Bay, and last year, when they ignited the historically deadly and destructive Camp Fire in Butte County. PG&E has had the program in place for more than a year but has never used it on as wide a scale as it intends to do Wednesday.
Alameda County officials issued an advisory Tuesday morning that PG&E is expected to disconnect power to more than 35,000 residences and businesses for up to five days starting early Wednesday.
The utility’s updated list of Bay Area communities that could be affected include parts of San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, Hayward, Richmond, El Cerrito, Pinole, Walnut Creek, Calistoga, American Canyon, Half Moon Bay and other coastal communities, San Jose, Gilroy, Vallejo and Petaluma.
PG&E has been warning customers by email, text messages and automated phone calls. Customers are urged to update their contact information online if they haven’t done so already. PG&E has also made it possible for people who aren’t direct utility customers to get alerts about a particular location — for example, an office or a school, or an apartment building where the landlord pays the utilities.
Around the Bay Area, emergency services offices and PG&E blasted out email and text alerts, automated phone calls and news releases urging Bay Area residents to take the potential power shut-downs seriously and make preparations.
“We encourage you to find alternative energy sources for light, charging devices and other necessities,” Alameda County officials said doing their best interpretation of what Venezuelans hear every day. "Plan ahead with food and water, and make sure your grab-and-go emergency kits are ready."
At the Oakland Zoo, the staff was busy Tuesday setting up setting up generators and heading out to buy more in preparation for an outage. The zoo will close to the public if it loses power, but concern about revenue loss takes a backseat to zoo administrator’s main priority — animal safety.
“We have some generators at the zoo, but we certainly need more,” said Nik Dehejia, the zoo’s chief financial officer. “If it’s a day or two, we’re okay. If it goes well beyond that, we’re going to be looking for help and see what we need to do.”
The zoo has three endangered species of frogs and toads, which require temperature-controlled habitats, that zoo-keepers are working to rehabilitate in the wild. “It would be devastating if those frog and toad species are lost,” Dehejia said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that they receive the temperature regulation that they need.”
While people hit stores to stock up on batteries, coolers, ice and canned foods, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf joined the call to be prepared but criticized PG&E for potentially cutting power for as many as five days.
“This is the type of interruption to our lives that should not happen,” she said.
“This type of interruption is not acceptable. We are going to do it because we believe it is in the interest of the safety of the people, but we have got to do better.”
National Weather Service forecasters have issued red flag warnings for the East Bay and North Bay hills, as well as the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Cool, dry winds are expected to increase 20 to 30 mph with gusts between 45 mph and 55 mph in the North Bay and East Bay hills — and even higher on North Bay peaks like Mount Saint Helena.
Preparing for the winds, PG&E previously issued a power shut-off watch for 257,000 customers in parts of seven Bay Area counties.
PG&E officials say the outages could last for days after the winds stop because lines need to be inspected before they can be re-energized.