Updated: 8:10 p.m.: The planned shutdown of power on the Coastside and for 57,000 people in San Mateo County was delayed on Saturday, but it arrived at about 8 p.m., in line with PG&E's most recent estimates. Coastsiders may now be without power for 48 hours or more.
PG&E incident commander Mark Quinlan said at the 5:30 p.m. press briefing that the dangerous weather was slow settling into the region. He said that what had been a planned 1 to 5 p.m. window for the shutdown in San Mateo County had been pushed back to 8 p.m. That is when Coastsiders began to report the power outage had begun.
Quinlan said he anticipates beginning to re-energize the coast at 8 a.m. on Monday. That could take 48 hours to complete, he said. He said winds are expected to be 35-45 mph sustained and up to 65 mph gusts.
"We do anticipate finding damage," from the wind, Quinlan said.
The duality of the Coastside was never in greater relief than on Saturday afternoon, as day-trippers flocked to pumpkin farms and crowded the streets of downtown Half Moon Bay while locals prepared for the prospect of spending days without electricity.
The scope of the shutoff grew on Saturday. PG&E said by midafternoon that it expected to “de-energize” 940,000 customers in 36 counties. That is up 90,000 customers from the earlier estimate. In San Mateo County, 57,218 customers were expected to be without power from San Gregorio to Burlingame. All told, it is expected to be a far more widespread event than previous planned power shutoffs.
The beleaguered power company says the shutoffs are necessary to mitigate wildfire risks that seem to be mounting. The Kincaid Fire in Sonoma County, which is believed to have been sparked by PG&E equipment, grew to 23,000 acres on Saturday. Residents were being evacuated in Healdsburg and Windsor in advance of winds that were expected to gust to 80 mph in the North Bay.
Closer to home, a Red Flag Warning was expected from 3 a.m. on Sunday to 11 a.m. on Monday. Expected winds, coupled with high temperatures and relatively low humidity, created conditions ripe for wildfire on the coast and in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
In preparation, Caltrans crews were installing portable generators at signalized intersections at Highway 1 and North Main Street, at Highway 1 and Highway 92, and at Highway 92 and Main Street. Crews on the scene said there were no plans to install generators at other key Highway 1 intersections, however.
There was good news about Devil’s Slide. Caltrans said massive generators were being installed there to power ventilation fans necessary for operation.
PG&E told the Review it planned to open only two resource centers, with power, water and air conditioning, in San Mateo County. They are at Sea Bowl in Pacifica, 4625 Pacific Coast Highway, and at the La Honda Fire Brigade, 8945 La Honda Road. Both are scheduled to open at 8 a.m. on Sunday and remain open until 8 p.m. Quinlan said there could be more such centers in the coming hours. While PG&E could not confirm for the Review, the city of Half Moon Bay said there would be an additional resource center in the parking lot of the Half Moon Bay Library.
Throughout the day, Coastsiders were preparing for what may come. One employee at Hassett Hardware likened the situation to Christmas. The Coastside’s largest hardware retailer had sold out of a stock of 52 generators by Saturday.
“Flashlights, batteries and propane, propane, propane,” said Hassett buyer Jennifer Augustine.
Outside Safeway, Dave Nickson was waiting for his wife, Shawn, to emerge with the week’s groceries. He said he wasn’t terribly worried about the outage. How would he keep food cold and cook? “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.