“We are seeing a dangerous combination of factors with this forecast. High winds, extremely low humidity, record dry fuels on the ground and severe drought,” said PG&E’s Lynsey Paulo.
The 2020 fire season has already proven devastating for the region, and meteorologists fear the windy, dry conditions will stoke the blazes already underway.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a Red Flag warning for much of Northern California starting Sunday and into Tuesday for what the agency calls the “strongest event of the year so far.” More than 30 million people are under the warning through the start of next week, according to CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin. A Red Flag warning means damaging winds and extremely low humidity pose a severe risk for wildfires that can spread very quickly.
Earlier this month, PG&E shut off service to some customers to prevent equipment from igniting fires in harsh conditions.
This outage is in anticipation of strong Diablo winds Sunday, forecast to top 70 mph, and expected extreme temperatures, according to PG&E’s Chief Meteorologist Scott Strenfel. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and North Ops predictive services “are indicating that this is a critical event, the strongest of the season,” Strenfel said.
The shut off affects customers across eight counties and will begin in stages starting at 10 a.m. Sunday. Power is expected to be switched back on Monday into Tuesday once the extreme weather passes.