PG&E prepares for power outages

January 3, 2008 8:36:55 PM PST
Bay Area mayors along with PG&E say they are ready as the storm system hits land. Still, it's expected there will be flooding and power outages.

More than a dozen PG&E customers already have lost power in Contra Costa County, even though the worst is yet to come.

PG&E is gearing up by distributing equipment to yards around the Bay Area so crews will have what they need to restore service.

"We brought in over 30 transformers just fro this storm alone. We also brought in extra power poles, extra insulators, all kinds of equipment that we just may need," said PG&E spokesman Joe Molica.

Meteorologists at PG&E have been briefing a special response unit where to expect damage to its towers and lines. Strong winds pose the greatest threat.

"That has the biggest impact and try to alert our emergency response people to those locations, but with this, it's such a widespread event, I don't think we can really narrow down in one certain area," said PG&E meteorologist Ken Ericsson.

Ken Ericsson says the storms bearing down on California has the potential to do the kind of damage done in December 1995 when 1.7 million PG&E customers lost power, winds exceeded 85 miles an hour causing 32 transmission towers to topple.

San Francisco is hoping the storm won't overtax its century-old sewage system as it did just over a year ago. Flooding is still a major concern.

"That's why we're putting our own sandbags up, that's why we have our own pumps that are distributed throughout the city. That's why we have mapped, we are a quote storm ready city," said San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom.

Past storms caused an ambulance to get stuck in a flood-prone area of Oakland.

"We will be deploying members of the fire department and members of the public works department so that they can be right there, standing by, to address the issue as it occurs," said Oakland mayor Ron Dellums.

This next storm could be a test of re-engineering of San Jose's Guadalupe River, leaving the mayor with another concern.

"Alviso sits at the tip of the city right at the bay, and it is right at sea level, so we're always worried about levee breaks or just localized flooding," said San Jose mayor Chuck Reed.

When, not if, power goes out, who will get the fastest response?

"We're going to have storms for the next 2, 3 or 4 days, and we expect some customers are going to be out for a day or two. We try to give priority to customers who have been out for multiple days," said PG&E Brian Spokesman.