Tune in for quick local stories plus a freeform alternative music station

Now hiring broadcasters!

Humboldt Last Week is a weekly audio program featuring quick local stories. You can listen now, download it for later, throw a tantrum about it, or listen on the go wherever you get podcasts (Apple, Spotify, Google, etc.). Additionally, the radio station is streaming 24-7 and adds a wide variety of alternative music to the mix.

At 12:07: After PG&E power outages impacted most of Humboldt County on October 9 and October 26, the utility company warned us of another outage on October 29 but then noted we were saved by improving weather conditions.

The weather really is the most important aspect of all of this.

PG&E says these shutoffs are initiated to prevent their equipment from starting wildfires due to dry and windy conditions. At the same time, we’ve heard in the past that Humboldt’s most populated western region near the coast is typically a more fire-protected oasis.

A decade of fire-prone weather data from the National Weather Service shows just that. From 2008 to 2018, Humboldt’s coastal west merited less than one Red Flag Warning a year. These Red Flags include those dry, windy conditions that would merit a PG&E shutoff, though they additionally include conditions that might not merit a shutoff such as dry conditions with light winds as well as dry lightning.

So, coastal Humboldt merited less than one fire-related Red Flag a year for the last decade yet the region suffered almost three PG&E blackouts last month alone.

“The coast is definitely less fire-prone primarily because it is much more humid along the coast,” said National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Ryan Aylward. “We get a lot of strong winds but as long as the fuels are moist and the humidity is high the fire risk is low.”

“It doesn’t have to be a Red Flag Warning day for PG&E to initiate a (‘PSPS’ shutoff),” said PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras. “There are several factors that go into determining a PSPS, such as wind speed, wind gusts, humidity levels, and moisture content on the ground.”

Remember, PG&E executives admitted the October 9 shutoff impacting Humboldt was not in fact due to weather conditions in the area but instead due to unpreparedness related to a transmission line that needed fixing. So what about October 26?

According to the ‘Weather Service, during the October 26 shutoff a Red Flag Warning was in effect for southeastern Humboldt, but not for Humboldt’s coastal and populated west. Pratt Mountain almost six miles northeast of Benbow recorded a peak of 59-mile-an-hour winds.

“Relative humidity was high in the Humboldt Bay area where north winds were occurring,” Aylward said. “There was a heightened threat in the interior areas where relative humidity was very low but fuels were (moister) the farther north you went.”

“Regarding the (October 26 event), even though most of Humboldt County did not experience the extreme winds, the areas further down and up the distribution and transmission lines did, and that’s why the transmission lines were de-energized, which impacted Humboldt,” Contreras said. “I’ve always said that you may experience a power outage even if the increased fire risk isn’t in your area because of the way the grid works.”

In previous interviews with Humboldt Last Week, Contreras noted PG&E has been making improvements locally following the October 9 event, such as maximizing energized circuits and conducting a study looking into the possibility of using the Humboldt Bay Generation Station at King Salmon without being connected to a fully energized grid.

Now some Humboldtians may be thinking: Okay, western Humboldt may be a more fire-resistant oasis, but that hasn’t been keeping my lights on. Well, bigger picture, when improvements eventually do keep the lights on it seems Humboldt’s populated and coastal west could literally be in a better-powered position to help neighbors elsewhere. And that seems like a good reason to make improvements quickly.

“The ‘PSPS’ in areas where there is no fire danger causes its own set of unnecessary dangers,” said Humboldt County Sheriff Billy Honsal. “I am urging PG&E to immediately focus on Humboldt County so we can truly be that oasis for Trinity, Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma County in the event there are forced evacuations or a ‘PSPS’.”

Meanwhile, PG&E’s big boss says it’ll take a decade to upgrade their goods.

“I don’t buy PG&E’s excuses,” wrote Governor Gavin Newsom on Twitter. “It doesn’t take a decade to fix this. Their years of mismanagement are over.”

Welcome, Eric Black! (8:30)

This week we welcome contributing host Eric Black to Humboldt Last Week. You've likely heard his voice on local terrestrial radio and have seen some of his video news projects. At (8:30) you can hear him delve into documentary screenings in Eureka on Tuluwat Island and Chinese expulsion, a big meeting on making the Arcata Plaza “safer and prettier,” and a progress report on Arcata's forthcoming “hipster soccer” -- or futsal -- court.

Also in the new episode:

Fortuna high schoolers, 17 and 16, allegedly tried to harm a large group of Fortuna students

St. Joe’s hospital partnership denied by the state

Samoa fish farm project moving forward

Plus crime updates, an event guide, cannabis news, and other quick local stories

Humboldt Last Week Alternative Radio (HLW altRADIO) is also on the Simple Radio app for iOS and Android. Adds:

Humboldt Last Week episode 148 partners: Northcoast Horticulture Supply - Ferndale Music Company, Bongo Boy Studio, Trinidad Vacation Rental, North Coast Journal, Photography by Shi

Humboldt Last Week is available at humboldtlastweek.com, kymkemp.com,  northcoastjournal.com, and 99.1 FM Mondays