San Jose city officials are advising local residents to be careful on the roads once PG&E flips the power switch off in Santa Clara County at 8pm.
Because of the high risk of fire danger, PG&E will implement its first Public Safety Power Shutoff tonight. The outage will leave 38,250 customers—approximately 100,000 individuals—in Santa Clara County without power for up to seven days.
The outage was originally supposed to start at midnight Wednesday, but was pushed back until noon before finally being set to later this evening. At a press conference Wednesday, San Jose Deputy City Manager Kip Harkness encouraged residents to take advantage of the later shutoff time.
“As the wind conditions are going a little bit later and a little bit lighter that give us the opportunity to have the evening commute complete before the power shutoff begins,” he said. “We really encourage anyone that can get home by 8 to do so."
City officials are also warning residents to avoid driving in the blackout areas and to remember that powered-off traffic lights render intersections a four-way stop.
The San Jose Police Department has also been prepping for the power outage.
“We don’t make a habit of advertising our deployment strategies, but what I will tell you is that we beefed up the districts and areas that we think will be affected,” police Chief Eddie Garcia said. “We also have to balance the fact that we have over one million residents in the city of San Jose that also need police services.”
Both Garcia and City Manager Dave Sykes emphasized that residents should not call 911 to report outages or to look for more information about them.
Meanwhile, the San Jose Fire Department has been staffing up–especially with the heightened risk of fires from blustery winds.
“We are going to take steps to ensue continuity of operations, meaning all of our resources can continue to respond to emergencies as normal,” fire Chief Robert Sapien said. “We will have additional resources to ensure that we can respond to any added call volume based upon the loss of electricity overall.”
He advocated that people should practice “common sense fire safety.” That means no open flames and no power tools near dry areas.
San Jose has been bracing for the power shutoff since early summer when the California Public Utilities Commission granted PG&E the authority to turn off electricity when fire danger is high. Sykes said the “power vulnerability” plan that the city enacted is what officials have been preparing for ever since that announcement.
San Jose’s emergency operation center has been activated and the city has three community centers–Southside, Mayfair and Camden–open to residents from 8am to 8pm on each day of the outage. Water, power and light snacks will be provided, as well as language assistance for Vietnamese and Spanish speakers.
Sykes said that “the city does not anticipate that drinking water, sewer systems or waste water treatment will be effected by the blackout.” However, he adds, residents in the effected area are being asked to conserve water and turn off any outdoor irrigation.
San Jose Vice Mayor Chappie Jones also offered up a few tips about how residents should prepare for the outage. Before the shutoff begins, he said, people should power up their electronic devices, make sure they have flashlights and a battery powered radio handy and full tanks of gas.
“It is important for our community, residents and businesses to continue to prepare now for a power shutoff that may last up to seven days depending on how long it takes PG&E to inspect the power lines for damages and energize,” Jones said.