Oakland, CA –Oakland Fire Department officials today warned of severe fire danger and urged the public to be prepared. Extreme weather conditions are forecast starting late tonight through mid-day Thursday. Strong, dry, gusty winds and low humidity will elevate the risk of fire and may result in PG&E shutting off power in the Oakland Hills and potentially throughout the city.
“We are anticipating the strongest winds we’ve seen all season, akin to the wind conditions during the 2017 North Bay fires,” said Oakland Fire Chief Darin White. “Although the threat is greatest in the hills, a rapidly spreading wildfire could have widespread impact across the city. We are urging residents to be prepared, and to use extreme caution over the next few days.”
Red Flag Warning & Wind Advisory
This morning the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for the East Bay hills and interior valleys, North Bay mountains and interior valleys and Diablo Range from 5 am Wednesday through 5 pm Thursday. They also issued a Wind Advisory for the East Bay Hills and North Bay mountains from 6 am Wednesday through 3 pm Thursday. The National Weather Service predicts that: “Northerly winds will increase by late Tuesday night and continue to be strong and gusty through at least Thursday morning. North to northeast winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts of 45 to 55 mph are likely. Locally higher gusts are possible on the highest ridges and peaks. These strong winds will create critical fire weather conditions. Strongest winds expected from Wednesday evening through mid-morning Thursday. Warm and dry conditions will continue into Friday, but winds are not expected to be a factor after Thursday.”
Potential PG&E Power Shutoff
Yesterday, PG&E announced that due to the fire risk posed by these extreme weather conditions, it is considering proactively turning off power and implementing a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) across 29 Northern California counties, including Alameda County. PG&E estimates that about 35,000 Alameda County customers could be impacted, potentially affecting 105,000 people. Across Northern California, PG&E estimates about 600,000 customers to be affected, or 1.8 million people.
If weather predictions hold, PG&E would shut down power in the East Bay Hills and potentially throughout Oakland starting at midnight tonight.Although the main period of risk is early Wednesday morning through Thursday afternoon, because of the widespread nature of the shutoff and the potential damage to the system from high winds, the power shutoff could last for up to five days, although most customers will likely be restored much sooner than that. PG&E will restore power once it has inspected the lines for safety and made any necessary repairs, which could account for the delay in re-energizing the lines.
PG&E began to send out public notifications yesterday to their opt-in customers and they are providing information on their website and through media releases at pge.com.
While customers in high fire-threat areas like the East Bay Hills are more likely to be affected, any of PG&E’s more than 5 million electric customers could have their power shut off. This is because the energy system relies on power lines working together to provide electricity across cities, counties and regions.
The City of Oakland is ready to respond to high fire danger and the effects of the power shutoff. However, the decision to turn off power and the speed at which it is restored is planned and managed solely by PG&E.
What is the City Doing to Prepare?
At 12 noon today, the City will activate its Emergency Operations Center to optimize coordination of City operations and resources.
In addition to the Oakland Fire Department’s normal operations, firefighters will conduct roving fire patrols in the Oakland Hills. These resources will augment the department’s normal hill company patrols that are out during high fire danger. Additionally, the State of California Office of Emergency Services is pre-positioning fire suppression resources in Oakland and the region.
In the event of a PG&E power shutoff, the Oakland Police Department will deploy additional neighborhood patrols and provide traffic safety support at key intersections where signals are out.
Since this is a regional event, the City team is coordinating with the Alameda County Office of Emergency Services, neighboring cities, the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure fluid communication and coordinated response. The affected cities and counties are receiving regular updates from PG&E regarding their plans to de-energize the electrical system and restore power once the severe weather conditions subside.
Help Reduce the Chance of Wildfire in Oakland
- In accordance with Oakland Municipal Code, Joaquin Miller Park is closed to the public on Red Flag days. Signs will be posted at all park entrances and trails regarding the closure.
- Other parks, trails, and recreational facilities may also be closed to visitors due to the high risk of fire.
- Barbeques are prohibited in all City parks when there is a Red Flag warning in effect.
- The Oakland Fire Department urges extreme caution, because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire.
HOW TO PREPARE
- Subscribe to ACAlert.org for alerts and updates via text message, phone calls, or email.
- Confirm or update your contact information with PG&E. PG&E will send notifications to the contacts on file in advance of a shutoff, when possible.
- Create a safety plan for all members of your family, including pets. A Public Safety Power Shutoff can happen at any time of day or night, due to changing weather conditions.
- Prepare an emergency supply kit. Include enough water, non-perishable food, toiletries, and medicine to last your household—including pets—for one week. Be sure to refresh your kit once a year.
- Determine if your landline will work during an outage. Keep a mobile phone as backup.
- Keep mobile phones and other devices charged.
- Keep your gas tank full and cash on hand; during power shutoffs, gas pumps and ATMs won’t work.
- If you have a generator, make sure it's ready to operate safely.
- Have flashlights available for your household. Avoid using candles.
- Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines. Plan for batteries and other alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.
- For individuals dependent on electricity for a medical device, please review the checklist provided by the Pacific ADA Center and by PG&E at prepareforpowerdown.com.
- If you have a driveway, use it. Keep narrow roads clear for emergency vehicles and evacuations.
- Create a plan– Develop an evacuation plan and identify a safe meeting place away from the home in the event you become separated. Clearly identify safe routes out of the home in case the primary exit is unavailable.
AFTER A POWER SHUTOFF
- Use coolers with ice to keep food cold and safe. Typically, your refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours--as long as the freezer and refrigerator doors are kept closed.
- Unplug or turn off appliances, equipment, and electronics to avoid damage caused by surges when the power is restored.
- Leave a single lamp on to alert you when the power returns. Then, turn your appliances on, one at a time.
- Use generators, camp stoves or charcoal grills outdoors only. Do not use a gas stove for heat.
- Check on your neighbors. (Courtesy of PGE.com: https://bit.ly/35j1bkT