A few Palo Alto Hills residents lost power late Wednesday as part of PG&E's planned power outages, while others who braced for electrical shutoffs neither ended up in the dark nor experienced the high winds the utility company said prompted the planned outages.
In an update issued Thursday morning, the city of Palo Alto said a small number of residents in the hills served by PG&E lost power, but didn't specify how many. The city of Palo Alto provides electrical service to residents through Palo Alto Utilities, including Palo Alto Hills, and receives its power from PG&E. Palo Alto Utilities didn't shut down power to its customers in the foothills, according to the city.
Palo Alto Hills fell under phase two of the San Francisco-based agency's "Public Safety Power Shutoff" that was initially set for noon Wednesday and eventually pushed back to 10 p.m. or later. The shutoff process began in Santa Clara County around 11:30 p.m.; customers could be out for up to seven days, the county's Office of Emergency Management said in an alert late Wednesday.
For some residents who expected their power to go out, the blackout never came.
"The power never went off. It was a big nothing," said resident Jay Weber, who had spent a good part of Wednesday preparing his home for the impending power outage. PG&E said the pre-emptive outages would start in the Bay Area when winds topped 60 to 70 miles per hour, as indicated by weather forecasts. The shutoff was designed to prevent possible firestorms like the one that hit the North Bay two years ago and the Sierra foothills last year.
But Weber said the winds didn't materialize, and he didn't think they would. He checked weather maps two or three days ago and didn't see anything headed toward his neighborhood.
"I'm glad I don't have to run around resetting clocks," he said.
Resident Mark Nadim couldn't help but laugh.
"There was nothing. I kept getting phone calls and emails and text messages," he said. "I think they are getting too worried about what happened two years ago. I talked to the fire chief about a year and a half ago and he said we never get those kinds of winds here. They made too big of a deal out of it."
While the planned outages were an inconvenience, Nadim said he wasn't angry.
The high winds that prompted the outages were expected to last through noon Thursday, according to PG&E spokeswoman Mayra Tostado. Once the agency determines the weather event has waned, it will begin the restoration process that includes 45 helicopters and 700 field workers monitoring for damage and conducting repairs to bring power back to the affected customers.
Initially, an estimated 800,000 customers across 34 counties in Northern and Central California were expected to see their power go out in two phases, according to PG&E. As of Thursday morning, 600,000 customers were still without power and 126,000 customers had their service restored.
On Thursday morning, the PG&E online outage map showed spotty outages near Palo Alto, including in Portola Valley along Arastradero and Alpine roads. About 22 customers lost power there between 10:55 p.m. and 11:05 p.m., according to the map. Most other outages occurred in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the area of Skyline Boulevard in San Mateo County, where 120 customers lost power in the Windy Hill and Los Trancos Woods areas.
Santa Clara County has declared a local emergency due to the pre-emptive power shutoff expected to affect more than 100,000 people; it will be called off once all county residents have their electrical service restored.
As of 10 a.m., PG&E didn't issue an all clear for the Bay Area.
The public can find out if a specific address is affected by the planned outages here. The website was created in response to the company's main website experiencing issues as customers looked into whether they would be affected by the shutoffs.
The city of Palo Alto power outage map, which showed no outages as of 10 a.m. Thursday, can be found here.
PG&E set up customer resource centers in the impacted counties with recharging stations for cellphones, plug-in medical devices and other electronic devices; drinking water; air conditioning; and other amenities. A full list of the centers can be found online here. The public can also call 800-743-5002 for information on which locations are or will be impacted by the shutoff.