Oakland And California In Crisis As PG&E Powerdown Looms

Oakland and California are in a state of crisis as Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)’s announced system wide “Public Safety Power Shutoff” set to commence in 34 counties starting Wednesday at midnight, PST.

UPDATE: Some Oakland Hills Homes Had PG&E Power Shut-Off Before Midnight.

But, before we look at the unfolding social instability in Oakland’s immediate future, just what is the Public Safety Power Shutoff?

What Is The PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS)?

It is defined as “an operational practice that PG&E may use to preemptively shut off power in high fire risk areas to reduce fire risk during extreme and potentially dangerous weather conditions.”

Beyond that, the more specific reason for the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) that Pacific Gas and Electric Company provides is best understood by the “AC Alerts” it has sent out for Alameda County, Albany, and Oakland, and this email letter from Oakland’s District 6 Councilmember Loren Taylor (I live in District Three, represented by Lynette Gibson McElhaney):

Today PG&E announced that due to the fire risk posed by extreme weather conditions, it is turning off power throughout Oakland and the State. This action will impact District 6. Check to see if you will be impacted by checking here.

PG&E will shut down power in the East Bay Hills and other parts of Oakland starting at midnight tonight. It is not clear how long the power outage could last but it is important to be prepared as the power outage could last up to 5 days.

The City of Oakland is ready to respond to high fire danger and the effects of the power shutoff. However, the decision to turn off power and the speed at which it is restored is planned and managed solely by PG&E.


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Confirm or update your contact information with PG&E. PG&E will send notifications to the contacts on file in advance of a shutoff, when possible.

Create a safety plan for all members of your family, including pets. A Public Safety Power Shutoff can happen at any time of day or night, due to changing weather conditions.

Prepare an emergency supply kit. Include enough water, non-perishable food, toiletries, and medicine to last your household—including pets—for one week. Be sure to refresh your kit once a year.

Determine if your landline will work during an outage. Keep a mobile phone as backup.

Keep mobile phones and other devices charged.

Keep your gas tank full and cash on hand; during power shutoffs, gas pumps and ATMs won’t work.

If you have a generator, make sure it’s ready to operate safely.

Have flashlights available for your household. Avoid using candles.

Talk to your medical provider about a power outage plan for medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines. Plan for batteries and other alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.

For individuals dependent on electricity for a medical device, please review the checklist provided by the Pacific ADA Center and by PG&E at

If you have a driveway, use it. Keep narrow roads clear for emergency vehicles and evacuations.

Create a plan– Develop an evacuation plan and identify a safe meeting place away from the home in the event you become separated. Clearly identify safe routes out of the home in case the primary exit is unavailable.

What is the City Doing to Prepare?

At 12 noon today, the City activated its Emergency Operations Center to optimize coordination of City operations and resources.

In addition to the Oakland Fire Department’s normal operations, firefighters will conduct roving fire patrols in the Oakland Hills. These resources will augment the department’s normal hill company patrols that are out during high fire danger. Additionally, the State of California Office of Emergency Services is pre-positioning fire suppression resources in Oakland and the region.

In the event of a PG&E power shutoff, the Oakland Police Department will deploy additional neighborhood patrols and provide traffic safety support at key intersections where signals are out.

Since this is a regional event, the City team is coordinating with the Alameda County Office of Emergency Services, neighboring cities, the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure fluid communication and coordinated response. The affected cities and counties are receiving regular updates from PG&E regarding their plans to de-energize the electrical system and restore power once the severe weather conditions subside.


Use coolers with ice to keep food cold and safe. Typically, your refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours–as long as the freezer and refrigerator doors are kept closed.

Unplug or turn off appliances, equipment, and electronics to avoid damage caused by surges when the power is restored.

Leave a single lamp on to alert you when the power returns. Then, turn your appliances on, one at a time.

Use generators, camp stoves or charcoal grills outdoors only. Do not use a gas stove for heat.

Check on your neighbors. (Courtesy of

Loren Taylor, Councilmember
Oakland – District 6

Many Oakland Residents In State Of Confusion PG&E Regarding Powerdown

As a forum exchange involving Oakland residents living in the Glenview District shows, there’s a lot of confusion regarding what this “powerdown” will mean:

“Dear neighbors – when PG&E turns off the power, does that tend to mean both gas and electric? Or just one of them? I got the alert to my phone today that it would be turning off power to at least 35,000 residences and I have no doubt my house in the hills will be among them. It does not say for how many days. Anyone know anything about either of these questions? Thanks so much! Thank you!”

UC Berkeley Cal Alumni Oakland Resident responds: “My understanding is it’s everything, even water might be a problem. Usually you need electricity to ignite your gas stove and cooktop but you can light it with a match. I mention water bc I’ve been reading EBMUD needs electrical to power water supply. If the outages last more than a few days, they said they might have problems making sure they have enough power supply for their water pumps for fires and in turn this may affect residents if their particular power supply is limited in your area. They ask everyone to use as little water as possible and no irrigation during that time but I’ve read they are warning that people need to make sure they have enough drinking water to last the outage. We’ll probably have water for a day or two but if it’s a week or several, I can see them running out of residential water supply. I’ve also read that EBMUD is very concerned about this problem and they don’t have the money to add major amounts of power supply to pump water.

As to length of shutoffs, no one knows. The official announcements I’ve seen for this particular upcoming shutoff said two days but the county just sent an email that said 5 days so who knows. And after the fire danger is over, they then have to physically inspect the lines before restoring power so that takes addl time. From everything I’ve read for outages in general, there are no set times. They can turn it off as long as they want to and it can last weeks at a time. It’s entirely up to them and they have zero oversight.

Because PG&E didn’t build the necessary infrastructure and repairs to prevent their lines from being a danger over these past many years combined with their anger about having to pay out money to fire victims and wanting to prevent that in future, you’re going to see Californians screwed. Trump has already been doing everything he can to hurt California and the energy companies have his full support to do whatever they want. Combined with worsening climate change, expect these outages to happen more frequently. PG&E supposedly is going to put more infrastructure in to prevent constant outages and more targeted outages in a few years but we only have their lying word for that. And I say lying because the courts have already determined they constantly lie.”

Another resident wrote: “PG&E isn’t going to provide any credit to customers when it doesn’t provide the services for which we pay? That’s outrageous. And we might be without WATER? Who authorized this catastrophic plan? The worst-case scenarios are worse than any “after an earthquake” warnings I’ve ever read during 40+ years in the Bay Area. I’m just stunned”

This Glenview Resident chimed in with: “Don’t count on cell phones either. Most cell towers only have a few hours of emergency battery power.”

The Loss Of Water Is Not Reported To Be An Outcome Of The Powerdown. That’s Why It’s A Powerdown.

As an Oakland Resident wisely reminds us all:

Before frightening neighbors, we should be very careful about on passing rumors.
There has been no suggestion that we will be without water. That would be a serious health issue that would be publicly addressed.
The only effect on water will be the loss of hot water, NOT A LOSS OF WATER.

It is important that we look out for each other and only quote verifiable information.

That verifiable information came in this PG&E communication from Deborah Israel, the aide to Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo (District 5), and very similar to what Councilmember Taylor put out. Here it is:

City of Oakland Prepares for Extreme Fire Danger, Red Flag Conditions, and Anticipated PG&E Power Shutoff

Public Advised of Extreme Fire Danger Due to High Winds and Low Humidity

PG&E Power Shutdown Anticipated

Stay informed – Sign up for AC ALERT!

Emergency Tips to Keep You Safe

Oakland, CA – Oakland Fire Department officials today warned of severe fire danger and urged the public to be prepared. Extreme weather conditions are forecast starting late tonight through mid-day Thursday. Strong, dry, gusty winds and low humidity will elevate the risk of fire and may result in PG&E shutting off power in the Oakland hills and potentially throughout the city.

“We are anticipating the strongest winds we have seen all season, akin to the wind conditions during the 2017 North Bay fires,” said Oakland Fire Chief Darin White. “Although the threat is greatest in the hills, a rapidly spreading wildfire could have widespread impact across the city. We are urging residents to be prepared, and to use extreme caution over the next few days.”

Red Flag Warning & Wind Advisory

This morning the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for the East Bay hills and interior valleys, North Bay mountains and interior valleys and Diablo Range from 5 am Wednesday through 5 pm Thursday. They also issued a Wind Advisory for the East Bay Hills and North Bay mountains from 6 amWednesday through 3 pm Thursday. The National Weather Service predicts that: “Northerly winds will increase by late Tuesday night and continue to be strong and gusty through at least Thursday morning. North to northeast winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts of 45 to 55 mph are likely. Locally higher gusts are possible on the highest ridges and peaks. These strong winds will create critical fire weather conditions. Strongest winds expected from Wednesday evening through mid-morning Thursday. Warm and dry conditions will continue into Friday, but winds are not expected to be a factor after Thursday.”

Potential PG&E Power Shutoff

Yesterday, PG&E announced that due to the fire risk posed by these extreme weather conditions, it is considering proactively turning off power and implementing a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) across 29 Northern California counties, including Alameda County. PG&E estimates that about 35,000 Alameda County customers could be impacted, potentially affecting 105,000 people. Across Northern California, PG&E estimates about 600,000 customers to be affected, or 1.8 million people.

If weather predictions hold, PG&E would shut down power in the East Bay Hills and potentially throughout Oakland starting at midnight tonight. Although the main period of risk is early Wednesday morning through Thursday afternoon, because of the widespread nature of the shutoff and the potential damage to the system from high winds, the power shutoff could last for up to five days, although most customers will likely be restored much sooner than that. PG&E will restore power once it has inspected the lines for safety and made any necessary repairs, which could account for the delay in re-energizing the lines.

PG&E began to send out public notifications yesterday to their opt-in customers and they are providing information on their website and through media releases at

While customers in high fire-threat areas like the East Bay Hills are more likely to be affected, any of PG&E’s more than 5 million electric customers could have their power shut off. This is because the energy system relies on power lines working together to provide electricity across cities, counties and regions.

The City of Oakland is ready to respond to high fire danger and the effects of the power shutoff. However, the decision to turn off power and the speed at which it is restored is planned and managed solely by PG&E.

Stay tuned.

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