In less than 24 hours, the city of San Jose expects a massive power shutdown in its East and South side neighborhoods, both areas that are populated with a growing elderly community and people of color.
After last year’s brutal wildfire season and fierce backlash, PG&E is taking extra safety measures in bracing for this year’s approaching fire season by cutting power off in neighborhoods closest to the region’s protected wildlife corridors.
California has been ravaged by destructive wildfires in recent years as a result of soaring temperatures and PG&E’s outdated infrastructure. Now, PG&E and national weather services are working together to identify the most extreme cases where a potential wildfire could set parts of the Bay Area ablaze, predominantly concerned over those hot temperatures mixed with the extremely dry conditions of the vegetation in the region and strong winds.
Nearly 800,000 PG&E customers across California will be affected, including 38,000 in Santa Clara County. San Jose officials confirmed late Tuesday that the power outage across the city is expected to begin at noon on Wednesday.
But less than with a day of notice, city leaders are scrambling to provide affected residents in San Jose with enough resources to make up for the loss of power. As a result, city officials held a second news conference Tuesday preparing residents for the next few days. Deputy City Manager Kip Harkness said the power outage can last for up to seven days, however, he added that weather forecasts show the outage may only last until late afternoon Thursday.
“There will be a significant wind storm situation growing along with the dry conditions of the vegetation — that’s the reason for this public safety power shut off. PG&E has reported that they will experience significant damage to their system,” added Ray Riordan, San Jose’s director of the Office of Emergency Management. “The purpose of the power shut off is to prevent a potential fire as we’ve seen in the past.”
What residents need to know
The city will be providing resources to affected residents at three community centers — Mayfair, Camden and Southside — just outside the affected areas. The centers will be open for residents starting at 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. The city will open its Emergency Operations Center starting at 10:00 p.m. tonight to prepare and monitor the situation.
PG&E will be providing resources at a community resource center at the Avaya Stadium starting tomorrow at 8:00 a.m until 6:00 p.m.
There will be access to safety and fire hazard information, water, light snacks, charging stations and air conditioning at each of these locations. There will not be access to shelter or medical services onsite.
Ahead of tomorrow’s outage, Harkness advised residents to power up all electronic devices, stay close to home, avoid driving and fill cars up with gas ahead of the outage as many gas stations will not be operating. Traffic will be heavily congested in the impacted areas, warned Harkness, as he advised residents to travel only when necessary.
In addition, Harkness said households should be prepared with flashlights, batteries and a power radio so families can listen to updates.
City officials said each school district will independently make a determination about whether they’re going to close or not, however, most school districts have said they will stay open. Contact your local school district to determine if it will remain open.
The Alum Rock Union Elementary School district will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday, district officials said in a tweet.
‼️‼️ Important Information‼️‼️
— Alum Rock Union (@AlumRockUnion) October 8, 2019
Fire and police personnel will be responding where needed, but city officials advised that residents do not call 9-1-1 unless it is an emergency.
“The whole reason for the PG&E shut down is of course because of the wildfire potential. So we hope that that will be successful,” said Harkness. “But in the case of an actual wildfire, our police and fire have a forward stance to be prepared for that.”
City facilities, libraries and commercial zones in non-affected areas will operate as usual, while other city services such as water, sewer, garbage and recycling will continue to operate as normal, but city officials told residents to expect slight delays due to traffic congestion. City officials are actively communicating with local nonprofits, schools and faith-based organizations to get the word out to potentially affected residents.
They have printed and distributed materials to these groups in various languages, including Spanish, English and Vietnamese.
For more tips on how to prepare for and stay safe during the power outage, visit the city’s website. For more information about PG&E’s notifications and how to update your contact information, visit PG&E’s website or call PG&E at 1-866-743-6589.
To find out if your neighborhood will be affected by the power outage, check the city’s map here.
Contact Nadia Lopez at [email protected] or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.