Nearly 60,000 San Mateo County customers lose power in weekend shutoff | October 30, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - October 30, 2019

Nearly 60,000 San Mateo County customers lose power in weekend shutoff

PG&E warns another blackout expected this week

by Rick Radin

As PG&E crews worked to restore power on Monday to nearly 60,000 customers in San Mateo County who lost service Saturday, Oct. 26, in the third planned shutoff this month, the utility warned another blackout would likely begin Tuesday.

It is likely some PG&E customers in the Bay Area will not have their power restored from the weekend shutoff before the next one begins. The anticipated shutoff coincides with a weather pattern expected to trigger another significant "wind event," said Andy Vesey, PG&E's president and CEO.

According to a potential shutoff map on PG&E's website, parts of San Mateo County, including Woodside and Portola Valley, could lose power Tuesday.

In an email Monday afternoon, the town of Portola Valley said it had been notified by PG&E that another shutoff could start early Tuesday.

"As before, if the power does go off in your neighborhood PG&E will have to inspect all the power lines before the power gets turned back on and it could take 36 hours to 5 days," according to the email. "Please be prepared for the power to go off and be off for several days."

Further information was not available before The Almanac's press deadline Monday afternoon. Check for the latest news.

PG&E customers can visit to determine whether their power may be cut in a planned shutoff.

The weekend shutoff began around 8 p.m. Saturday and impacted 57,218 customers in the county, including portions of Woodside and Portola Valley, as well as parts of cities stretching as far north as South San Francisco and south to Redwood City, according to PG&E. Some 965,000 customers — more than 2.5 million people — were affected by the shutoff as of Sunday evening, PG&E said.

Woodside Councilman Brian Dombkowski and Mayor Pro Tem Ned Fluet said in separate emails that they lost power Saturday evening.

Dombkowski said that he and his family did everything they could to prepare in advance.

"We worked through our perishable foods, powered up the extra phone chargers and had the kids complete their homework while we still had working WiFi," Dombkowski said.

Dombkowski said that he thinks customers have been given "a false choice between fire safety and having power because of PG&E's 'infrastructure choices over the last couple of decades.'"

"For a state of our caliber, with its high tax rates and its cost of power, it's astonishing to realize the utility, its regulators and the state itself has created this false choice we now must work our way out of over many, many years," he said.

Fluet, another Western Hills resident, said his propane generator kicked in after his power went off.

"I am glad that PG&E is taking a proactive approach to fire prevention, but I think these shutoffs are a short-term solution to a large-scale problem, and the shutoffs cannot become the norm," he said.

If PG&E implements another shutoff Tuesday, it would be the fourth planned blackout this month. The move is intended to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire ignitions from its energized power lines that could fall during inclement weather.

About 1,000 customers in San Mateo County, including portions of Woodside, lost power around 1 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, as part of PG&E's planned power shutoff, according to the utility. Power was fully restored in the county just before 6 p.m. that day, according to a San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services alert (SMC Alert). Approximately 179,000 customers in 17 Northern California counties lost power.

PG&E also shut off power to 738,000 customers in 34 counties starting on Oct. 9, including nearly 15,000 customers in San Mateo County. Many streets in Portola Valley and Woodside lost power in that shutoff, and schools in the Portola Valley Elementary School District were closed Oct. 10 as a result. Customers in Portola Valley and Woodside who lost power generally had it restored within about 24 hours.

The utility was widely criticized for its handling of the event, including for poor communication with customers and local governments.

Almanac Assistant Editor Julia Brown and Bay City News Service contributed to this report.


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