Would Cutting Power Before Windstorms Cut Fire Danger?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — We have seen vast improvements in weather forecast models over the past few years. So much so that our wind storm on October 8 was accurately predicted days in advance.

The accurate predictions have left some like Dr. Cliff Mass, Professor Of Atmospheric Sciences at University Of Washington, wondering if Northern California would benefit from turning off power before a large windstorm.

There is no proof yet that the recent storm outbreak was caused by power lines, but other wildfire outbreaks in the past have proven to have sparked from wildfires.

We reached out to PG & E and here is their statement:

“PG&E maintains an unwavering focus on delivering safe and reliable electric and gas service to the customers and communities that we serve. The extraordinary wind event that swept across PG&E’s service area on Oct. 8 and 9 packed strong gusts, in excess of 75 mph in some cases. And in one case, there was a gust of 79 mph.

· Proactively de-energizing parts of the electric grid is highly complex due to significant public safety issues such actions can pose. De-energizing lines can have an immediate and very broad impact on public safety, affecting first responders and the operation of critical facilities such as hospitals, schools, the provision of water and other essential services, traffic signals, communications systems, operation of building systems such as elevators, and much more.

· Widespread de-energizing would introduce additional safety risks that would have to be carefully considered, communicated and addressed across many agencies and with the communities and customers we serve. Potential actions to be considered range from the establishment of communications protocols to notify customers of plans to de-energize lines to working with public agencies and critical service providers to implement emergency energy systems among critical customer classes.

· PG&E's meteorology team has developed a Storm Outage Prediction Model (SOPP) that incorporates real-time weather forecasts, historic data and system knowledge to accurately show where and when storm impacts will be most severe. This model enables the company to pre-stage crews and equipment as storms approach to enable rapid response to outages.”

Brandi Ehlers Merlo
PG&E Marketing and Communications

For now, it is suggested to be vigilant when there is a fire weather warning in your area. Make sure you have a way to get notified of evacuation warning — even at night and you're ready to evacuate within seconds.

More from Lisa Meadows
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