Additional reporting by Thomas Sawano
NEWS AS OF 7:30 P.M. ON OCT. 9
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is reacting to high fire risk by shutting off power in 34 California counties. At time of press, 22 counties are without power.
Santa Cruz County falls within the areas marked on PG&E’s website that are slated to lose power. The duration of the outage remains unknown, but PG&E estimates grids could be dark for up to five days.
The shut-offs are a precautionary measure in response to high winds and low humidity, dangerous conditions during California’s peak fire season. In September, PG&E paid an $11 billion insurance settlement to the State of California after officials found the company’s power lines responsible for the 2018 Camp Fire.
Santa Cruz is not expected to experience high winds, but dry vegetation and low humidity could still put the county at risk for fires. Once high risk weather subsides PG&E will monitor power lines and begin restoring power, according to the company’s website.
UC Santa Cruz anticipated a campuswide power outage, including the Coastal Science Campus, 2300 Delaware and the Scotts Valley Center. Classes were canceled all day Wednesday. The campus power outages were expected to start as early as noon, but power remains on at time of press.
“There are a number of different buildings that have generators on campus,” said Marc DesJardins, University Relations Executive Communications Manager. “Even then, some of those are only for partial service to power things like emergency lights or refrigerators. It’s really different from building to building.”
UCSC plans to keep the Rachel Carson and Oakes, Porter and Kresge and Colleges Nine and Ten dining halls open during the power outage. Residence halls will likely be without power except for emergency lights. Select buildings will be set up with charging stations available for students.
The Cowell Student Health Center will also maintain normal business hours and will have access to power even if PG&E turns off campus power lines.
“We need to be strategic about where we decide to use power from the backup generators,” said UCSC Police Chief Nader Oweis. “We’re trying not to overrun the system.”
To keep campus safe during the outage, Oweis said there will be an increase in patrol presence among residential assistants, UCSC Police Department officers and campus security officers.
On Oct. 8, lines formed at gas stations throughout Santa Cruz as citizens preemptively filled their gas tanks. Shelves stocked with water jugs were cleared out by the end of the day. While grocery stores in Santa Cruz are experiencing shortages of non-perishables, none foresee being severely affected by the power outage.
If traffic lights turn off, the Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) will send officers to major traffic areas, said SCPD Community Relations Specialist Joyce Blaschke. In the event of a power outage, drivers are advised to treat all traffic lights as four way stops.
The second wave of power outages that’s expected to affect much of Santa Cruz has been delayed until 8 p.m. or later on Oct. 9, said Director of Santa Cruz Public Works Mark Dettle. The outages are predicted to impact areas to the north and east of Highway 1, Dettle said.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Details in this article may have changed since time of print. For updated information regarding power outages on campus and throughout Santa Cruz, keep an eye out for CruzAlerts and check pge.com.