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Thousands without power in northern San Luis Obispo County, again

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Posted at 11:23 AM, Sep 17, 2021

Thousands of PG&E customers were without power again in northern San Luis Obispo County on Friday.

Two of the major outages started shortly after 6:30 a.m., affecting a total of 2,989 customers east of Highway 101 from Creston down to Pozo.

On the west side, a power outage that began just after 9 a.m. was affecting 1,003 customers between Lake Nacimiento and Highway 46.

Both areas have been affected by multiple power outages over the past couple of weeks.

PG&E says because they're considered to be high fire-danger areas, crews must check the entire circuit for any damage that could spark a fire before power can be safely restored. That's done with crews on the ground and in helicopters. Officials say the intensive process likely means longer outages.

While PG&E has not confirmed the cause of Friday's outages, a spokesperson explained that the utility recently updated the sensitivity of its equipment in high fire-threat areas to automatically shut off power faster if the system detects a problem. For example, a bird or branch hitting an energized line.

"We have made this change in areas we serve where, if an ignition occurred, there is a higher probability that a large fire could result, driven by local topography, terrain and fuels, even when there may be little or no wind," said Mark Mesesan, PG&E representative.

He said that means people living in high fire-threat areas, like rural northern San Luis Obispo County, could experience longer and more frequent outages.

Mesesan added that PG&E is working to adjust the sensitivity of their equipment.