Published: Fri, October 11, 2019

PG&E Starts Second Round of Power Shutoffs as Blackout Spreads

PG&E Starts Second Round of Power Shutoffs as Blackout Spreads

In California's wildfire season, the threat of fierce wind gusts and arid weather increase the chances of trees being toppled and falling into power lines - or those lines being blown into dry vegetation, sparking a fire. "What's happened is unacceptable and it's happened because of neglect".

Cal Fire likewise concluded that PG&E power lines had sparked a 2017 flurry of wildfires that swept California's wine country north of San Francisco Bay. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January as it faced billions of dollars' worth of possible liabilities stemming from years of devastating fires in Northern California. State Sen. Scott Weiner estimated that 2.5 million people could be impacted.

As high winds moved south, a similar cutoff was under way by neighboring utility Southern California Edison, which warned that more than 173,000 customers could lose power in parts of eight counties, including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura.

The utility said a third round of outages is still being considered, but says it will not impact as many customers as originally anticipated.

The National Weather Service said the hot gusty winds that usually hit northern California in October, sometimes called the "Diablo Winds", will continue into Friday morning.

Although PG&E said changing weather conditions and work-arounds had restored power to about 44,000 customers, its action was the largest precautionary electricity shutoff undertaken by California's biggest investor-owned utility.

"We understand the effects this event will have on our customers and appreciate the public's patience as we do what is necessary to keep our communities safe and reduce the risk of wildfire", said Michael Lewis, PG&E's senior vice president of Electric Operations.


Overnight, wind gusts climbed to over 70 miles per hour in parts of Northern California, and the Merill Fire broke out, forcing evacuations.

"As soon as the weather passes, PG&E will begin safety inspections with 6,300 field personnel and 45 helicopters standing at the ready once we get the all clear", the utility said in a tweet on Thursday.

"Those were decisions that were made by Pacific Gas and Electric - they chose not to modernise their grid", said Newsom. "We were just left up in the air".

Despite an unprecedented effort to prevent wildfires, at least three of them erupted in Southern California on Thursday fueled by strong winds and dry conditions.

More than 3 million people may be eventually affected, based on city estimates and the average household size. "Whether it's a grid-caused fire, or an ignition from a vehicle engine, or your lawnmower or something else, those are not places where people should be living and expect all the tax payers of the state to bail them out".

"Those fires and what they caused are still very real for people in our 'hood", he said.

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