Local communities struck by power outages

Numerous lightning strikes knock out power to thousands in Reedley, Sanger and Orange Cove areas, PG&E reports

(StephenhIrwin on Adobe Stock)
Derek Fleming
Published June 26, 2024  • 
9:00 am

REEDLEY – A sudden weather pattern moving through the South Valley resulted in more than 1,000 lightning strikes in a three-hour time period, sparking several fires and knocking out power to thousands of PG&E customers in Reedley, Sanger and communities throughout the Valley. 

PG&E Spokesperson Jeff Smith told The Mid-Valley Times that at the peak, about 16,000 customers were without power. Outages from lightning strikes, which occurred on June 24, peaked around 2:30 p.m. and most customers had power restored by early evening. 

“In Fresno County and the surrounding area, we still have about 2,500 customers that remain without power,” Smith said. “We had hundreds of lightning strikes and there was a lot of damage to equipment. In some of those areas, we are still trying to get clearance to go inspect our lines due to the fires. The majority that are remaining without power are because of the fires.”

According to Smith, a significant amount of the outages were caused by lightning striking transformers, though there were also instances in which power poles were struck. 

PG&E reported power outages affecting about 1,000 customers in Reedley and Orange Cove, and another 5,366 customers in Sanger were without power following the storm. The PG&E outage map continues to show small numbers of outages scattered across Fresno County with larger numbers of people impacted in the Yokuts Valley area where fires are continuing to burn. 

These were the most recently reported numbers of impacted customers from PG&E as of June 25 at 12:15 p.m.

Smith said that earlier in the day on June 23, PG&E was seeing some outages that were related to the high summer temperatures. Smith added that nearly all of the accessible customers have been restored and he expects the final customers to have power late on Monday or early on Tuesday.

Meteorologists reported that the storm was caused by an unexpected change in the path of Tropical Storm Alberto, which brought unusual weather conditions in the region. The National Weather Service first issued a Special Weather Statement to Madera which ultimately expanded to include all of Fresno County. The report indicated a possibility of pea-sized hail and winds up to 40 miles per hour. 

NWS reports that the United States experiences about 25 million instances when lightning strikes the ground each year and an average of 20 people are killed. In 2023, there were just two reports of deaths, an individual in Tallahassee, FL who was struck while walking in an open field and a person in Colorado who was branding or feeding cattle. The last person killed by lightning in Fresno County was a hiker on the John Muir Trail in 2021.

Derek Fleming