Because Trimming Trees Is So Hard

This morning about 60,000 customers are without electricity in Northern California. Why? Pacific Gas & Electric company was found liable for a major fire as they had not kept trees out of the power lines, and during a high wind condition, they sparked and caught fire.

So, since it is just soooo hard to trim trees, and one guy can chop power in a minute, they have decided to just shut off the power whenever it’s windy and dry (and it is almost always dry in California…).

Hope all you eCar owners can walk to work… Oh, wait, work will be closed too… Well, hope you don’t have to escape a fire…

Who need to drive when the wind blows, anyway… /sarc;

In a first, PG&E cuts power to 60,000 to prevent wildfires during wind storm

Gavin Bade
Oct. 15, 2018
Pacific Gas & Electric cut off electricity service to nearly 60,000 people on Sunday in a new attempt to prevent wildfires across Northern California service area during high winds and dry conditions.

The National Weather Service on Saturday issued a Red Flag Warning for the region, cautioning of extreme risk of wildfires due to low humidity and winds reaching above 50 miles per hour. High winds can cause power lines to come into contact with vegetation, igniting fires.

PG&E lines were found responsible for 16 fires last year and California lawmakers passed wildfire liability protections for utilities this summer after PG&E warned that fire costs could force it into bankruptcy or reorganization.

Must be due to Global Warming /sarc;

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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21 Responses to Because Trimming Trees Is So Hard

  1. rogercaiazza says:

    Maybe they are doing this so they won’t have so much resistance to tree trimming operations. Not in my back yard folks literally want everyone else’s trees trimmed but their’s

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    Or maybe it is to get folks comfortable with power outages. I heard on the radio someone calling it “the new normal”… That way we expect power to be intermittent and won’t be so uppity when the wind doesn’t blow…

    Oh, wait! So when the wind does not blow, we don’t generate electricity; and when it does blow so we are making lots of it, the power will be shut off to prevent fires. So when will we get electricity?…

  3. Steven Fraser says:

    @EM: Another example of California’s lack of sensible adaptation skills. ‘Sensible’ meaning, observable.

  4. John F. Hultquist says:

    First thing to go will be ice cream. But it is apple season, so pie and ice cream!

    Seriously: Our county road district keeps trees and brush out of their right-of-way.
    However, outside that corridor, trees are someone else’s problem. Note that a tall tree can fall, take out other trees, fences, power lines, and passing vehicles. Only then does the mess get cleaned up.
    When power lines run along the road the trees there are those of the property owner. A few years ago I prompted the local utility about this issue. They contracted with a local tree service. The deal was that the trees would be cut sufficiently low that I could drop the remaining part (about 30 feet of large Cottonwoods) without taking out the electric lines. One was going to land on a fence, so I laid that down and put it back after.
    After the contracted work was done, I cleaned up the many limbs as “chipping & hauling” was not in the deal. Cleanup is a lot of work and one has to have a place to put the stuff. After the initial cleanup, I cut the remaining part of the trees (about 8, with 30″ DBH), and removed the stumps to ground level within a double-pickup wide corridor. I keep this cleaned of all plants except grass, that I mow.
    I live in a rural area and the Utility has many miles of lines and sparse customers. Thus, the issue goes way beyond just trimming trees. Many individual land owners need to be contacted and deals worked out; some reject. In my case, I instigated the work and it was accomplished with a hand-shake. Try that in Kalifornia!

  5. Larry Ledwick says:

    On the availability of power front looks like the Trump administration might have a work around tactic to out flank local governments who want to strangle coal and oil exports. By using national security as the rational they would use federal facilities to support strategic interests of allies to have access to affordable fuels.

  6. cdquarles says:

    Where I live, utilities have a 15 foot buffer easement. They can and do cut trees and spray herbicide to limit risks to the lines. That, of course, does not keep Darwin Award motorcar drivers from taking out poles, or the telephone/cable power repeaters and fire hydrants that are on the ground.

  7. rogercaiazza says:

    Sadly – very likely

  8. DonM says:

    About 10 years ago in Oregon, there was a tree fall on a major (BPA) line. Apparently the BPA folks were lazy/negligent and FERC fined them a big pile of money.

    The fallout was that BPA went nuts clearing their Right-of-ways (mainly in urban areas). The clearing through my property and the nearby few miles was jus for show … there were no trees that could cause harm & and there was not enough shrubs/brush that could cause burns. They cleared a few small (15 trees) apple orchards that people had in their back yards; I let them take out big Maple that was outside of their R/W (this was just for show as the 80 year old 60′ maple could not possible have gotten with 30′ of their lines).

    After seeing what they were doing it became obvious that their main goal was to document that they spent enough time/effort/money on clearing to make sure that there would not be another future negligent claim.

    As the California utility has been accused of being negligent, they will spend money and do silly things to make sure that they don’t meet (the new) standard of negligence. In the future rates will, of course, go up. And in this area it appears that service will be reduced.

  9. ossqss says:

    My first thought would be to uproot, pack my trunk, and leave Cali if I lived there ; -)

  10. H.R. says:

    @cdquarles: Our first home had an alley on the side and the power company came along to trim back some trees. All fine and good and they only trimmed what was necessary, similar to what you described in your comment just above.

    Well, we also had a couple of Black Walnut trees that were about 80-years old near the back of the property and just one of them had a branch sticking out near the power wire running along the back of the property.

    The crew foreman offered to remove both trees and haul them away. As I recall from a quick bit of research back then, each tree was worth a bit over $1,000 just as cut logs, with who knows what value after being milled.

    Darn nice of him to offer, but the dollar signs in his eyes were a tipoff. 😜

    I told him to just cut the offending limb and then watched the crew the whole time they worked on that tree.

  11. ossqss says:

    Dangit, I forgot the branch out part in my comment!

  12. philjourdan says:

    California needs more thunderstorms. Michael caused a lot of damage around here even thought it was only a TS when it arrived. And while 2 of my sisters lost power (and some are just getting it back today), we only had minor bounces.

    Why? Because between the “Derecho” and other thunderstorms, there are no trees left hanging over our power lines on the easement! (Surprisingly Isabel and Irene took none of them down) So nothing to knock down when we got 57mph sustained winds!

    California needs more thunderstorms.

  13. Larry Ledwick says:

    Yes mother nature has a way of taking care of over growth.

  14. philjourdan says:

    Or as Larry noted, the backside of a strong low that is dumping snow on the plains. :-)

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    I believe that under California law the power company easement is subject to eminent domain tree removal and the land owner can not stop it.

    I know that the (5?) foot easement on my deed includes a note saying it must be kept clear for access and that ANY obstruction can be removed including any structures…

    IMHO, PG&E is mostly doing it for show and partly due to being cheap and not hiring enough folks to have done the agreed and required trimming and maintenance in a year since the big fire.

    It is very rare here to get even 50 MPH winds. While an occasional shallow rooted redwood will fall over in high wind (if not in a grove); it is fairly rare for other trees to go down. I can remember one out of about 50 years. It had gotten rot going in the trunk and about 1/2 of that was gone.

    Heck, we don’t even get big branches blown off. Twigs is about the limit of it.

    May be different up in the mountains though. I’ve been down in the valley my whole life.

  16. philjourdan says:

    The easement is SOP. It is the same here. Indeed,the local Power Company (Dominion) killed a nice maple by topping it. But that was not the one that fell on their lines 4 years later. They are not very good arborists on either coast.

  17. Power Grab says:

    So, how do the wealthy critters take those inconveniences (e.g., power outages just because it’s windy)?

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    @Power Grab:

    The very wealthy generally live in the major urban center cities where the power is not shut off.

    Those that do have a place out in the rough, either have a large automatic Diesel generator to keep the place going whatever happens (so folks with an estate vineyard keep on growing grapes and keep the wine storage at the right temperature) or they just fly off to their “other” estate, or their NYC Penthouse for a while… leaving their Major Domo to deal with the “problem”.

    Wealth has a whole different view of things…

    My Florida Friend takes essentially NO steps to deal with weather related power outages. Didn’t even see a candle. Why? Well, in his “gated community inside a gated community” the entire neighborhood is served by a big automatic Diesel Generator. When the power goes out (that it does frequently – I’ve been there during storms) there is a momentary darkness, then the generator kicks in and everything is back to normal. Even the street lights. You can hear, in the distance, the faint drone of the Diesel. Often folks don’t even notice the interruption. Just keep on with watching the TV and checking what’s to eat…

    So talking about the horrors of being without power is essentially a no-op for folks who live there. Now I know he grew up in much more modest circumstances so does know what it means to have the freezer of meat go bad when it was all you could buy for the week… and knows to fire up the propane BBQ when it starts to soften about a dozen hours into an outage and make some nice cooked meat – that then keeps another day or two – or smoke it to dry for a weeks long preservation. But his neighbors? Not so much… They would cope by calling up the management and asking why they didn’t keep the generator fueled properly… IF it ever went out.

    One minor example:

    When last on contract there, in the RV park where we were living: The next coach over was a Canadian couple. When things got cold and unpleasant in Canada, they just went to Florida for 5.9 months (you must live in Canada 6 mo/year to keep you medical coverage in place). When things were bad in Florida, they were in Canada. There was also a large seasonal flux of $1/2 Million Class A RVs arriving for the good times. It was quite clear who were the “local poor” in the smaller RVs that didn’t leave when the weather was less than perfect, or showed up for a 2 week vacation and returned to work; and who were the “Bucket ‘O Money” never a bad day sorts.

    So some Rich in the places where the power is being Red Flagged will just choose to load up the RV (or have their staff load up the RV) and head off to that resort they always wanted to spend a week or two exploring. “How does The Grand Canyon sound dear? Oh, Right, did that last year… Marble Canyon then? Is Melanie back from Maui? Text her to change her flight to Phoenix.”…

    Realize I’d love to be in that category. It is a very pleasant way to live. I hold no ill will toward folks who can afford to do that. It’s a goal, not a privilege. (With any luck, in about a year, we’ll be “heavy with RV” too ;-) It is just different from the way folks who have a 9-5 M-F / occasional S&S gig and live from check to check see things. The spouse is still in the M-F gig. Hopefully we’ll transition soon. (My Govt. Checks start in about 4 months and we’ll find out how the budget goes then and if I need to get a job, or my math is right ;-)

    Essentially, the folks who are actually screwed over by this are the “country poor”. Everyone else won’t even notice (or if they do notice, it will be because they had to cash some bonds to buy that “whole house” backup power system… so they won’t have to notice again.)

  19. Power Grab says:

    I had some retired relatives who had 3 homes. One was a mobile home in Arizona, where they spent the winter. They also had a double-wide in the SW quadrant of Oklahoma where they spent spring and fall. They built a two-story (one room each floor) native rock cabin in the mountains of New Mexico, where they spent the summer. And they had a small-by-current-standards travel trailer that they used to take trips and move around.

    They never had any kids of their own, but they served as leaders of various scouting-type groups. Whenever we visited them, they always had 2-3 more families visiting as well. They seemed to know everyone. And they seemed to know how to make practically anything, with or without electricity.

    It seemed like a nice way to spend one’s retirement. I have wondered how to get into that lifestyle, and if it’s still viable, what with all the illegal immigrants floating around, etc.

    I have thought that the biggest hurdle would be to find a group of similar-minded folks to migrate with, and who could be trusted.

  20. Steve says:

    Just let california collapse… the rate its going, it will become a hell hole and they can film a remake of “Blackhawk Down” with the locals and a real war zone, in an unstable 3rd world country….. ..

  21. E.M.Smith says:


    I’d like to escape first, if that’s OK? ;-)

    FWIW, it will take decades to complete a collapse here. The reason is due to the State being so large and the counties so diverse that it will not all go at the same time. It is the rot of the major urban areas under extreme Left Wing control that will fail first. We’re already seeing that in San Francisco where walking the street can be “challenging” at times. Yet many areas and many times of day it isn’t bad at all. Or East L.A. where the economic decay can be a bit strong.

    Yet get into the hills and valleys of the place and it’s a different world.

    Frankly, were the Government more balanced I’d stay. It is largely the insanity of Tax & Spend that is driving out the middle class. It’s great for the rich (with enough accountants and lawyers to avoid paying much tax) and the poor (where the gravy train is a good one). It is only the “Working stiff” that has it bad. Any place where it takes $100,000 / year to “make ends meet” has issues for the middle class worker. (That is NOT exaggerated. Rent for a 1000 sq ft place can be $3000 / month or $36,000 / year. You will need to make double that for the taxes, so it’s $72,000 / year wages just to have a mediocre apartment. Now add any car payment, gasoline at $1 more per gallon that the rest of the nation. Food at about 30% more than anywhere else. Electricity at 39 ¢ / kW-hr (tariff filed for $1/2 but not yet approved). Etc. etc. “Good luck with that” at anything under $100,000 / year income. (Oh, and expect 9% to 10% sales tax on that stuff you buy, including sales tax on the gas tax on that gasoline…)

    So we’re leaving. Just slowly ;-) “But the weather is really nice” :-)

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