High winds expected to whip through Bay Area

National Weather Service issues high-wind warning through Thursday; PG&E anticipating some outages

PG&E is preparing for strong winds that are expected to hit the Bay Area over the next two days. The utility is anticipating some power outages if the wind storm produces the 60 mph gusts that weather forecasters are predicting, PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian said Tuesday morning (Nov. 29).

The National Weather Service has issued a high-wind warning for the Bay Area that will be in effect for Wednesday and Thursday as a dry weather system moves through the region, weather service forecaster Duane Dykema said.

"It's not really what most people would consider a 'storm,'" Dykema said Tuesday.

He said rain is not expected but that gusts of 60 to 70 mph are anticipated at higher elevations, with gusts of 40 to 45 mph in lower-lying areas, Dykema said.

"It's going to be really blustery almost everywhere," he said.

Sarkissian said PG&E spends more than $180 million annually to inspect more than 130,000 miles of power lines in its service area from Eureka to Bakersfield to make sure they are safe. Although the utility focuses in particular on trimming unhealthy tree limbs that overhang power lines, it also monitors healthy limbs that pose a threat, she said.

Of the power outages in PG&E's service area, 13 percent are caused by tree limbs that fall onto power lines. Of those, 90 percent are caused by healthy tree branches, she said.

Customers reporting power outages can call PG&E at 800-743-5002. People who encounter a downed power line should assume it is live, keep a safe distance away, and call 911 and PG&E, Sarkissian said.

— Bay City News Service

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Here we are in the 21st century in the heart of Silicon Valley and our power supply is at the mercy of the wind!

We are in fact being warned that we may not have power because of the wind.

Third world countries, possibly. But, the so called most advanced country in the world? At the mercy of the wind. Most european countries never have wind related power outages in urban areas.

We are not rural America. We are urban population and we are to expect wind related power outages.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 29, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Oh, resident, don't worry, anyone who is anybody has their own generators or a plane to fly to their other homes ... the power should only affect the nobodys ... the 99.9% who do not really matter, and all that money to fix the electrical infrastructure is much better spent buying influence and corruption in the 3rd world so the economic and political power of that 99% does not amount to anything really significant.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 29, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Eh, if the power goes out, call it an earthquake drill. Light a candle and put on a sweater. Don't stand there with the fridge door open. Seriously, this article would be more useful with some Palo Alto specific info, like report outages to City of Palo Alto Utilities at 650-496-6914 instead of the PG&E number. "Winter Storm Safety Tips" Web Link

The current weather advisory warns more about driving high profile vehicles in areas open to the wind, e.g. bridges or along the coast.

No utility will be 100.00% dependable in all scenarios, and they all get exorbitantly expensive as the last slivers of fallibility are wrung out. Maybe someone here can find a local cost-benefit analysis of undergrounding all our power lines, which probably would help avoid wind-related outages. But sometimes it's overall more economical to repair what breaks rather than try to make everything unbreakable.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 29, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Everybody calm down. This is not forecasted to be a Class 3 hurricane. It is not a Joplin-style tornado or any tornado. It is not wind - with ice. It's not even supposed to rain. If the power does go out, it is not bitterly cold outside so put on a sweater. Get out your lanterns, candles now , and do have that earthquake 'drill'. Maybe the kids shouldn't ride bikes to school tomorrow due to possible falling branches, although wind won't stop Midwesterners. Take Caltrain if possible and stay off the bridges. The fog is more dangerous. This has nothing to do with politics or being 'green'. It is just an unusual high wind and pea soup fog. . Cope.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2011 at 9:58 pm

I think we know what to do when the power goes out, it happens far too frequently.

It isn't about a bit of inconvenience at home, it is about the fact that business does not go on as normal when no power is available. Stores close because they can't use the registers and the stores are dark. Computer systems go down in nearly every business regardless of what it does, and most won't be able to go about their business anyway. Restaurants have to close and probably food is thrown out because it is spoiled. Schools are so dark that teachers and students can't see their books, their notes, or almost anything in the classrooms. Traffic lights go out so traffic gets snarled, and I am not sure what happens at the train crossing gates.

Don't try and play this down. It costs Palo Altans real money when the power goes out during the business day. This money is money that is lost and cannot be reclaimed.

The cost of not undergrounding is more than just the cost of repairing the lines.

Like this comment
Posted by peninsula commuter
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2011 at 6:30 am

"The cost of not undergrounding is more than just the cost of repairing the lines".

Not true - The cost of undergrounding is about $13,000 per home (for the utility) and about $5000 (for the homeowner to convert their service). Worst case, if a tree falls and breaks a power pole it costs about $5000 to repair, and that pole probably serves 15-20 homes. Poles rarely break so the more typical damage is maybe a few hundred dollars to fix. So the cost of repairing the lines is not even close to the cost of undergrounding. The $$$ are better spent elsewhere.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 8:45 am

Peninsula Commuter

Wrong. The cost of each power outage is not just the cost of repairs to the utility company.

The cost of each power outage is huge when you consider each business that is without power and losing money through lost business, spoiled food, paying wages for staff that can't work, for schools that can't teach, for people stuck in traffic and who miss appointments or trains or even planes because they can't get to the station or airport because of snarled traffic, for medical offices who cannot treat patients or even get patient contact information to let patients know that they have no power so their appointment has been cancelled, for medical patients who take time off work to get to medical appointments which can't occur because the power is down and the office can't let them know because they can't get information from their computers (the last scenario happened to me with a dentist appointment).

Downed power lines cause a lot more cost than the cost of the repair. Just not the cost to the utilities company. Perhaps if we could claim our costs for their inability to provide a service for several hours, we might get them to understand.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:53 am

Resident, thanks for the above post - very thoughtful & well stated. While I don't personally mind the inconvenience of short power outages at home, I'm well aware of how it effects businesses. I was once w/out power for nearly a week here. I'd *just* done a huge grocery shop, but was able to move the food to work, luckily. It was hard to get to work on time w/the house dark in the mornings but I was able to cook w/a gas stove, which I shared w/my neighbors. If I'd been a business, I'd have been in a bad state. So many lost so much then, but PG&E just claimed it was an "act of God" vs. the truth - an act of their own incompetence, which they paid for mightily. Of course, all of us paid for it as well - in loss of power & increased bills down the line.

Like this comment
Posted by peninsula commuter
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2011 at 6:12 am


Your observations about the total costs of power outages are true for commercial electric customers, that's why the commercial areas of Palo Alto are already underground. But not true for residential customers - the inconvenience cost of missed appointments, spoiled groceries etc. will never equal the $18,000 per home cost of undergrounding. And that cost is going up as AT&T and Comcast are no longer paying to underground their cables in underground districts, Palo Alto will have to pick up the entire cost for all three utilities.

In any case, the reliability of Palo Alto's overhead electric system is pretty good. The annual minutes of outage per customer are about 1/2 of PG&E's for the SF Peninsula.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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