Quick Take:

Monday’s outages were largely triggered by high winds, with the Santa Cruz Mountains under red flag warnings and expecting to see gusts from 35 to 50 mph through the afternoon.

Due to powerful, dry winds, more than 5,600 Pacific Gas and Electric customers saw power outages Monday in Santa Cruz County, primarily in the mountains. The outages come as parts of the county remain under red flag warnings, since a single spark could cause a major wildfire.

Amid high wind warnings and increased fire danger, the electric utility planned to intentionally shut off power for about 25,000 Central and Northern California residents Monday, but the Santa Cruz outages were unplanned and caused by wind-related problems, such as fallen trees, tree branches or debris that could have affected power lines, according to company spokesperson Mayra Tostado.

Santa Cruz County residents are no strangers to power outages, as they’ve seen more than 35 in recent months. The majority of these outages occurred in the southern part of the county, the San Lorenzo Valley and other parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The area’s mountainous regions have been designated as “high fire risk” zones due to extreme drought conditions.

These outages are a result of PG&E’s new “fast trip” settings, which the company implemented at the end of July in order to shut down power lines within a tenth of a second once triggered. Though the company says this system has been successful at fending off potential sparks and wildfires, it has resulted in the lines being extra sensitive: Even a squirrel chewing a line can shut power down for thousands of residents for hours.

Monday’s outages, however, were largely triggered by high winds, with the Santa Cruz Mountains under red flag warnings and expecting to see gusts from 35 to 50 mph through the afternoon.

Here’s a breakdown of the number of customers affected by the outages in Santa Cruz County as of 3 p.m. Monday, according to Tostado.

  • Boulder Creek: 1,636
  • Felton: 430
  • Santa Cruz: 463
  • Scotts Valley: 1,925
  • Soquel: 472
  • Watsonville: 503

While it was yet to be announced when the power would be back on for most of these customers, PG&E had assigned crews to assess the damage to electric lines prior to restoring power. According to PG&E’s map of current outages, many Scotts Valley residents could get power again by 6 p.m. Monday.

Wind-related outages were affecting approximately 12,000 residents across the Central Coast, Tostado said.

“Due to extensive and widespread damage, PG&E crews are responding to multiple outages in different locations where tree crews have to remove trees or other debris before PG&E can safely begin repairing or replacing damaged equipment,” Tostado said via email. “We will work around-the-clock to restore power to our customers safely and as quickly as possible.”

Earlier Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported that more than 34,000 Californians could see electricity intentionally shut off as high winds increase fire danger, and this doesn’t even touch on unplanned outages, as in Santa Cruz County.

As high winds continue to impact the Central Coast, more outage activity is possible through at least Tuesday. PG&E urges customers to never touch downed wires, and to prepare for storms by securing outdoor furniture and having a backup phone, a properly installed generator, flashlights and fresh drinking water and ice.

Credit: Via PG&E

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