Power to the Tower as Northern CA Shuts Down Grid


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Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California’s largest utility, cut power to hundreds of thousands of customers Wednesday in an attempt to avoid sparking a wildfire. The company said power isn’t likely to be restored for days – leaving northern portions of the San Francisco Bay Area, containing parts of over 22 counties, in the dark. Residents expressed concerns over how lack of power to tower sites will affect their cell phone service. 

Based on the latest weather forecasts and models, PG&E projects that dangerous conditions will last through today, with winds reaching 60 to 70 mph at higher elevations.

Although some of its sites had lost power, T-Mobile reported “only a small number of sites down in some of the areas affected by the power shut off.” Sprint said power outages could occur but did not specify if that had already happened in their Northern California network sites. All of the carriers said additional generators would be deployed and monitored to ensure cell coverage. 

The carriers issued the following statements:

  • Sprint: “Sprint continues to coordinate closely with these local power companies and local governments to try to minimize wireless network interruptions in impacted areas. The power shut offs may impact cell sites in the area. Some of Sprint’s cell sites may have permanent generator power available. For others, the company is actively deploying portable generators as much and as quickly as possible. Sprint is committed to providing customers reliable service and helping to ensure its public safety customers have the tools they need to timely and effectively respond to emergencies.”
  • AT&T: “We’re closely monitoring and are deploying resources from other states to support our customers and public safety, including staging hundreds of additional generators and equipment. We are actively refueling generators and preparing additional assets for quick deployment in the state.”
  •  Verizon: “We have generators and backup batteries at the majority of our cell sites (towers) and all of our switch locations (network nerve center) to keep our network up and running if commercial power is lost. And we are able to refuel our generators to keep them running. Having this backup to our backup plan is critical to our strategy. This ensures our network can continue serving customers indefinitely until commercial power is restored.”
  • T-Mobile: “Our network is holding up well, with only a small number of sites down in some of the areas affected by the power shut off. Our priority is to keep our customers connected and we continue to work closely with the local utilities to monitor the situation and respond where needed. In addition to backup power – as noted in our newsroom post – we have a fleet of temporary generators that our emergency response teams can deploy if needed to get sites back up and running.”

The Public Safety Power Shutoff is being staged in three phases: the first phase, impacting approximately 513,000 customers, began at 12 a.m. Wednesday morning. Customer affected included: Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo and Yuba.

The second phase of the Shutoff occured around 12 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, impacting service to approximately 234,000 customers in the following counties: Alameda, Alpine, Contra Costa, Mariposa, San Joaquin, San Mateo and Santa Clara.

A third phase is being considered for the southernmost portions of PG&E’s service area, impacting approximately 42,000 customers. Specific locations are still to be determined.

October 11, 2019

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