PG&E warns of emergency shut-downs that could impact San Francisco, San Jose

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- On Thursday, PG&E received the ability to turn heavy lines off. The trade for more safety-more people may lose power as a result. Perhaps even in a place like San Francisco.

"How long could you go without power?" we asked Dr. Carl Montgomery. "A day would be too much."

Then, the clincher from Allie Canningham as she sat in a wheelchair.

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"Without power and support, we would die."

That is one reason she attended Thursday morning's meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission, which approved new de-energization guidelines from PG&E in the case of extreme fire danger.

It granted PG&E has the option to cut power to high voltage transmission lines, not just smaller ones used for distribution. The disabled have long expressed concerns about how such measures might leave them vulnerable.

"Power for CPAT machines, ventilators, wheelchairs, refrigerators for people who need meds at certain temperatures. The list goes on," said Allie, who represents the California Foundation for Independent Living, and some 100,000 people like her across the state.

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PG&E says the odds remain small of such a cut-off impacting San Francisco or San Jose, but in rural areas with higher fire danger, we have seen it before.

When PG&E cut power to parts of Napa, Sonoma, and Lake County, last October, more than 11,000 people went dark. Their frustrations continued when the utility took two days to restore that power.

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Cutting high power transmission lines could impact more people, this year, in the East and North Bays.

Prepare now, said PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith.

"It is totally dependent on weather so it is not possible to predict odds in something like that because we do not know what the weather will be like in August."

PG&E stressed that it would not take such a shut-down lightly. They would look at weather, temperatures, winds, other factors.

And they say they would hope to restore power within 48 hours. But, as before, they would need to check every line before flipping those switches.
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