Anticipating severe winds and fire danger across Northern and Central California, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. turned off electrical power to 513,000 customers Wednesday just after midnight in the first stage of a planned shutoff affecting nearly 800,000 customers.

A second phase of the public safety power shutoff was initially expected to begin at noon Wednesday, affecting 234,000 customers, including 52 customers in the Vernalis area southeast of Tracy, near the San Joaquin-Stanislaus county line.

Instead, those shutoffs were delayed several hours because of changing weather conditions. As of 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, PG&E's official outage map showed no outages near Tracy due to the public safety power shutoff. Some people reported losing power shortly before midnight. 

Anyone traveling in the area of highways 132 and 33 should be cautious when approaching traffic signals and railroad crossings.

A planned third phase of shutdowns will affect 42,000 customers farther south in the state.

PG&E announced the planned power shutoff Monday in response to a forecast of severe winds and dry conditions throughout northern, central, coastal and Bay Area counties.

Power may be off for up to 48 hours as PG&E examines the power lines for damage after the severe winds end sometime Thursday afternoon. If there is damage, it may take longer for the power to be restored.

The utility has opened a resource center at the Westley Hotel, 8615 Highway 33, for people whose power is off in the surrounding area. The center will have restrooms, bottled water, charging stations for people’s electronics, and air-conditioned seating for up to 100 people.

Altamont Corridor Express published a statement Wednesday morning saying its trains could be delayed this afternoon, but that Union Pacific Railroad and PG&E were evaluating the situation.

BART does not expect any changes to its service. It has backup systems in place and can pull power from other parts of its network to areas affected by the shutoffs.

Caltrans District 4, which covers the Bay Area, announced that it was working on providing an alternate source of power to keep the Caldecott and Tom Lantos tunnels open. Generators were being put in place Wednesday morning to provide power after East Bay power shutdown began at noon.

Caltrans did not list any road closures on Interstate 580 over the Altamont but urged drivers to treat any intersection without working traffic lights as a four-way stop.

In Tracy, the airport and other transit services aren't expected to feel any effects of power shutoffs. 

Contact the Tracy Press at or 835-3030.

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