Outages hit West Marin

10/10/2019

Due to widespread hot, strong winds combined with low relative humidity and dry fire fuels, Pacific Gas & Electric cut power on Wednesday to nearly 800,000 customers across Northern and Central California; in West Marin, the towns of Muir Beach, Bolinas and Stinson Beach lost their power. “The [outage] area is looking at very receptive conditions for large fire growth,” Evan Duffey, the senior meteorologist at PG&E said at a public briefing yesterday. The length of the unprecedented shutoff will depend on when the National Weather Service lifts its red flag warning, which currently extends into early Thursday due to expected wind gusts reaching 55 miles per hour at higher elevations. Once weather conditions are safe, PG&E will inspect its lines and make repairs as necessary. In Bolinas on Wednesday, school was cancelled, the Hearsay did not publish and many businesses were closed. George Krakauer, the town’s fire chief, said his department had reached out to the 10 or so people it knows of with medical needs to make sure they are okay. The People’s Store, the Coast Café and a few other shops remained open on generator backup. The hardware store stayed open late on Tuesday, too. “We’re going through candles like crazy,” said Dave Huebner, the store’s co-owner. “Batteries, gas cans—all kinds of stuff.” In Stinson Beach, the market was open on Wednesday. Kenny Stevens, the Stinson Beach fire chief, said the community center would open for people to charge their phones, and if the outage extends through Friday night, people will serve a hot meal there. “If nothing else, [the outage] might be good training,” he said. “This might be the new norm.” The department sent out a notice that anyone who needs to refrigerate medication or charge medical devices can use the station’s power. The timing of the shutoff happens to coincide with the Marin County Board of Supervisors’ approval of a new electrical system de-energization response plan, which guides a collaborative response by local governments, special districts and county agencies with a focus on vulnerable populations. On Tuesday, Marin’s emergency services coordinator, Tom Jordan, presented on the plan and encouraged individual preparedness. Last month, he said, the county sent PG&E a letter to ask about securing a community resource center in Marin where people can charge their devices. “This is a function of the utility—to provide some remedy for the known harm that will occur if one of the de-energizations happen in the county,” he said. The utility hasn’t responded.