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PG&E says ‘likely’ power shutoffs as Northern California gets first fire watch of 2023

The National Weather Service issued a fire weather watch Monday for portions of Northern California, the first of the year for the region, as wind and low humidity move in along with hot temperatures.

Due to the high wildfire risk, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said public safety power shutoffs were “likely” to occur Wednesday in portions of seven Northern California counties. The shutoff event could begin around 3 a.m. and affect about 8,000 homes and businesses, the utility company said.

PG&E in a news release said it may cut power to customers in parts of Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Napa, Shasta, Tehama and Yolo counties.

The largest potential shutoffs were set for Shasta and Tehama counties; roughly 3,800 customers and 3,200 customers, respectively, could be blacked out in those counties. About 500 customers could lose power in parts of Colusa County and just over 350 in Glenn County, PG&E said. Fifty or fewer customers were forecast to lose power in the remaining counties.

The weather service’s fire watch will go into effect from 11 p.m. Tuesday to 11 p.m. Wednesday for fire zones that cover most of the Sacramento Valley. The advisory extends to the following counties, according to the weather service:

Sacramento

Yolo

Yuba

Sutter

Butte

Colusa

Glenn

Tehama

Portions of Shasta, mainly near Redding

A fire weather watch is issued when “critical fire conditions” are forecast, according to an update from the weather service. The mix of wind and low humidity could cause a wildfire to grow quickly in both size and intensity.

In the capital region, maximum temperatures are forecast to range from the mid 90s to high 90s through Friday, according to the weather service. The area could see some smoke early Wednesday morning, coupled with winds from 6 mph to 10 mph.

The “highest threat” will be on the western portion of the Sacramento Valley, along Interstate 5, according to the weather service. Winds are expected to whip between 15 and 25 mph, coupled with gusts from 30 to 35 mph,

On Tuesday night, humidity levels are expected to range between 30% and 45%, according to the weather service. By Wednesday afternoon, levels are forecast to decrease significantly.