With only some isolated fire prevention power outages so far on the Central Coast, the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management is closely looking at how the current plan is rolling out involving hundreds of thousands of customers.
The county is in the service area for both Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.
“We are a little bit surrounded right now, and we are keeping in contact with both of those utilities,” said Santa Barbara Office of Emergency Management Director Kelly Hubbard.
Local agencies are refining their response plan with a real time example unfolding this week.
“So talking to my counterparts in the impacted counties Santa Rosa, Sacramento, and down in Southern California, Los Angeles and Ventura, so we are learning from what they are seeing,” said Hubbard.
The uniquely directed Sundowner winds quickly exceed 60 mph and drive up temperatures over 20 degrees when they come from the Santa Ynez Mountain range to the ocean under severe pressure changes.
They also throttle back and forth.
“We might have the evening period of high winds and then it will calm down, and then we might have another evening of high winds. So there might be these days or multiple days when the power utilities might cut off power purposely to prevent fires,” said Hubbard.
All first responders are working to get ahead of expected challenges in high wind and high fire dangers, combined with the power outages.
“We just made sure all county fire facilities had significant backup power sources, generators,” said Daniel Bertucelli, Santa Barbara County Fire Captain.
They expect many different calls for service at once.
“Traffic signals go out, and we might have an increase in traffic accidents, and we can’t forget the reason why the PSPS is occurring is because of significant fire weather conditions,” said Bertucelli.
Sweeping outages might occur depending on the conditions forecasted, but they might also be isolated to certain micro-regions.
“So they are doing it by individual circuits as best as they can they are trying to limit how many residents are impacted they are trying to limit critical infrastructure impacts,” said Hubbard.
Restoring power is another issue. That also could take one or more days.