PG&E warns outages could start Saturday as atmospheric river takes aim at Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO -- A strong, widespread storm may cause power outages in the Bay Area starting Saturday, PG&E officials said Friday.

The company said it has thousands of workers ready to restore power. Workers on Friday were clearing vegetation away from power lines to reduce the chance of outages.

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The heaviest rain is expected to start Sunday afternoon and last into Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

"This strong storm has the potential to cause power outages due to significant rain, gusty winds and heavy snow in the mountains," PG&E director of meteorology and fire science Scott Strenfel said in a statement. "We're urging our customers to have a plan to keep themselves and their families safe."

Forecasters are predicting 1 to 3 inches of rain in most urban areas, with 4 or more inches likely in the North Bay and gusty winds likely to accompany the rain.

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Gusts, generally from the south, could range from 30 to 40 mph over a widespread area. In higher terrain, gusts could reach 55 mph and higher.

Before the wet weather arrives, the region is expected to see cold temperatures on Saturday morning, with the potential for lows in the upper 20s and lower 30s in valley locations.

The North Bay and southern Monterey County are likely to be the coldest areas in the greater Bay Area, according to the weather service.

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Forecasters are warning that the rain could cause minor flooding and rockslides, particularly in areas where wildfires have burned recently.

PG&E will be tracking the debris flows in burned areas. Debris flows could damage electrical equipment, PG&E officials said.

The chance that vegetation damages power lines is a concern in this storm because of the drought, according to PG&E. Droughts weaken vegetation, making it more likely that trees and limbs will fall on power lines, PG&E officials said.

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The company uses a storm prediction model to predict where the impacts of the storm will be the worst. Then it prepositions crews for a faster response to outages and other problems.

PG&E customers can track outages on the company's website at https://pgealerts.alerts.pge.com/outagecenter/.

Customers can search by individual addresses and the website has support for 16 languages. Customers can also get notified of outages by text, email, or phone.

Notifications report the cause of the outage, say when crews are on their way, when power is expected to be back on and when it has been restored.

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