Despite assurances that the power company would improve communication before and during future planned power shutoffs, there was confusion on Tuesday about whether the city of Half Moon Bay would go dark later this week.
The city — along with La Honda, Pescadero and other San Mateo County areas — is included on PG&E maps for a possible shutdown beginning early Thursday morning. Furthermore, residents who type their addresses into the company’s outage map get messages saying to expect their power to shut off in the next 48 hours.
However, Half Moon Bay Public Works Director John Doughty said late Tuesday afternoon that he had received assurances from a company representative that the city would not be affected this time around. Shortly before 5 p.m. on Thursday, the city sent an email blast to residents saying the city was not included in current plans.
The power shutoffs are an attempt by the power company to avoid catastrophic wildfires that have been caused by its own equipment in the past. Hot, dry weather and freshening winds are expected over the next few days.
Whatever happens in the next 48 hours, local government entities say they learned from the incident earlier this month to better prepare for future outages. PG&E maintains the outages are the best way to manage wildfire risk and that they could continue for at least a decade while it updates the grid.
Elected officials have criticized the way PG&E has handled the outages. County Supervisor Don Horsley said the company went “overboard” last time.
“There’s not much we can do,” Horsley said this week. “We’ve let (PG&E) know we think this is overkill.”
State Sen. Jerry Hill has blasted PG&E, calling such outages “a failure in execution.”
“It would have been better for PG&E leaders to detail exactly why it’s going to take them 10 years to build the resilient electrical system we should already have, so that power shutdowns are truly a rare, last resort,” Hill said in a press release.
Since public safety power shut-offs appear to be part of California’s foreseeable future, the city of Half Moon Bay is fine tuning its communication plan with residents. Councilwoman Deborah Penrose said last week, “nothing bad came out of (the last shutdown), except showing how unprepared we were.”
Half Moon Bay Communications Director Jessica Blair said staff will communicate with the county to ensure accurate information is conveyed throughout. While the city’s email subscribers consist of a small portion of the community, staff is exploring how to use social media to reach a wider audience. To reach members of the Latino community, staff also has a text list of partners that share the messages with their networks in Spanish.