Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) reached an important milestone this month, installing its 100th new weather station this year and further enhancing its capacity to capture additional meteorological data to better predict where extreme wildfire danger could occur.
The expansion is part of the additional safety precautions following the 2017 wildfires that PG&E is taking as part of its Community Wildfire Safety Programme, intended to further reduce wildfire threats and keep its customers, their families and communities safe.
Since January 2018, PG&E has installed more than 100 new weather stations, of an expected approximately 200 new stations in high fire-threat areas across its service area by the end of the year.
Counties that have received new weather stations so far this year include Alameda, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Sonoma and Tuolumne.
Data collected by these stations is streamed in real time and available to state and local agencies and the public through online sources such as the National Weather Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and MesoWest.
"With these new, additional weather stations, PG&E is able to capture additional real-time data related to temperature, wind speeds and humidity levels to provide improved awareness of current fire danger conditions," said Kevin Dasso, PG&E vice president of Electric Asset Management.
"Our team of meteorologists and wildfire safety experts will use this data to determine any needed actions the company can take to help reduce wildfire risks."
One of the actions PG&E may take, as a last resort during extreme fire danger conditions, is temporarily turning off electric power lines for safety. No single factor will drive a Public Safety Power Shutoff. PG&E will take a combination of many criteria into consideration, including:
- "Extreme" fire danger threat level as classified by the National Fire Danger Rating System
- A Red Flag Warning declared by the National Weather Service
- Low humidity levels, generally 20% and below
- Sustained winds above approximately 25 mph and wind gusts in excess of approximately 45 mph
- Site-specific conditions such as temperature, terrain and local climate
- Critically dry vegetation that could serve as fuel for a wildfire
- On-the-ground, real-time observations from PG&E field crews