Temperatures are expected to rise this week, coupling with low humidity and higher winds, leading PG&E to warn that Half Moon Bay, Pescadero and La Honda could experience another “public safety power shut-off” early Thursday morning.
The latest information from the power company calls for a shutdown for more than 6,000 customers in the city and points south. At present, there is no plan to shut off power for customers on the Midcoast north of Half Moon Bay. However, late on Tuesday afternoon, city of Half Moon Bay officials said the power company told them city residents would not be affected by this round of planned shutoffs. If true, that contradicts information on the PG&E website.
Whatever occurs, 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.
“The goal is to reach as many people as possible,” Blair said, “so utilizing all possible avenues is best practice.”
San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services sent out seven SMC Alert text messages throughout the last outage relaying information officials received from PG&E. Midcoast Community Council members were not initially on countywide calls with the Office of Emergency Services, and representatives from the MCC have asked to be included going forward.
“We brought up the fact that as representatives in an advisory sense for the Midcoast population, we’d like to have a permanent spot on that notification list,” MCC member Len Erickson said.
PG&E set up a resource center with charging stations in Half Moon Bay, but MCC members said it was difficult for Midcoast residents to get there due to increased traffic. The MCC has asked for a similar center at Pillar Point Harbor. At press time, there was no word on whether any resource center would be established this week on the Coastside.
During the last outage, the city deployed portable generators at the sewer pump stations to ensure service was not disrupted. Other public agencies, such as the Coastside County Water District, are also exploring backup power options.
Caltrans is also planning to install generators at the Devil’s Slide tunnels in the next year. Officials say the generator must be custom-made due to its size and the location.
“Unfortunately, the generator is not something that is consistent with the coastal plan,” Caltrans spokesman Jeff Weiss said. “But it is necessary and will be installed because of the new normal with the power shut-offs.”
Officials do not envision the planned shut-off this week affecting operations at the tunnels.