Pacific Gas and Electric Company said Wednesday night that 4,600 Kern County customers could be impacted by a third phase of power shut-offs, a significant drop from the previously estimated 42,000 local customers that could have potentially been impacted.
PG&E officials said during a press conference they are in the process of notifying which customers will be impacted by an outage. A timeline for when the outages will occur was not provided, but the Kern County Facebook Page said shut-offs will take place early this morning. Specific areas where outages will take place was also not indicated.
A red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service for Lake Isabella, Tehachapi and Fort Tejon/Frazier Park areas is in effect from 10 a.m. Thursday to 5 p.m. Friday. Changing weather patterns led to PG&E officials reducing the number of impacted customers.
Several Bakersfield residents prior to the start of the 6 p.m. Wednesday press conference received a notification stating a planned power outage would not occur in their area.
At approximately noon Wednesday, as a result of high winds in areas with elevated fire risk, power was shut off to 65 Southern California Edison customers in unincorporated portions of Kern County. Communities impacted included Horse Canyon and Bird Spring Canyon.
Throughout Wednesday, PG&E implemented Public Safety Power Shutoffs that impacted counties predominantly in Northern California. An estimated 750,000 customers were expected to experience power outages in the first two phases of electrical shut-offs.
Katie Allen, a local PG&E spokeswoman, explained factors that could trigger the Public Safety Power Shutoff in Kern County include red flag warnings, low humidity (20 percent and below), high wind speeds (25 mph and above), conditions of dry fuel on the ground and live vegetation and on-the-ground real-time observation from the PG&E wildfire safety operations center and field crews.
Affected residents will receive notifications when to expect their power to be restored. Allen said it could take 24 to 48 hours after the wind event has ended for power to return, possibly leaving customers without power for several days.
“We have the wind event ending mid-day on Friday, but wind and weather conditions can change,” Allen said. “When that does change, should we execute a Public Safety Power Shutoff, we can start patrolling our lines in Kern County and restore power.”
Approximately 19,647 Southern California Edison Kern County customers in Tehachapi and unincorporated areas in the Kern River Valley and Lebec could lose service, SCE said on its website.
SCE did not indicate a time frame for any additional potential blackouts.
Local agencies have said they are prepared to assist residents if an outage occurs in their area.
Megan Person, Kern County spokeswoman, said Wednesday afternoon the county would have a response ready if power is shut off, though she did not elaborate on what it would include. She did say, however, it would not be nearly as big as the response following the July 4 and 5 Ridgecrest earthquakes.
Bakersfield Police Department spokesman Sgt. Nathan McCauley assured citizens that officers will still be able to respond to any emergency or crime-related calls.
“Our building has generators so we won’t lose service and we can still get 9-1-1 calls,” he said. “We work with the county and several agencies for emergency preparedness ... We’ve reached out and had officers placed on call.”
Bakersfield citizens, however, should not contact BPD with questions regarding possible outages, but rather reach out to PG&E, McCauley added.
Bakersfield city fire is also not expected to be impacted by potential power outages.
Hospitals in the area also have generators that will kick start if power goes out. Generators can provide power for four days at Dignity Health Memorial Hospital, explained Kenneth Keller, president and CEO. The hospital also has food and water stored to take care of staff members and patients for four days.
Kern High School District announced Wednesday that Stockdale and North high schools may specifically be impacted Thursday by a power outage. Both schools will be on a two-hour delayed start Thursday, and parents will be informed by 8 a.m. if the power is out and school is canceled for the day.
If the district and/or a school site determines it is necessary to release students for the day due to a power outage, an all-call notification will be sent to all parents, bus routes will be activated and nutrition services will provide a cold lunch for students who are on campus if the outage occurs during the lunch period, according to the district.
Bakersfield College announced Wednesday its various locations will not be affected and classes will continue as scheduled Thursday and Friday.
The National Weather Service in Hanford issued a high wind watch for the Kern County Mountains and desert areas from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. Wednesday. It said to expect sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph, with gusts up 60 mph in those areas.
Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.