Over a million residents in the state of California will experience power outages in anticipation of the strong winds and dry season in dear of potential wildfires.
Wednesday morning, California’s largest electrical utility started turning off the lights, approximately 800,000 residents in the California state.
Customers in parts of 34 out of the 58 counties throughout California will be affected by power outages as a preventative strategy in the face of escalating wildfire threats in the state. And, concerns that the electrical grid could start another fire that would rival or even exceed the Camp Fire of 2018.
Dry, windy weather that is predicted to have winds up to 70 miles per hour are forecasted this week — in addition to warm temperatures, it creates the ideal climate for sparks from a downed powerline to start another inferno — and are to be expected throughout Northern California and are forecasted to last up to five days in some places and affect up to a total of 1.8 million people.
The cuts, which include northern parts of the San Francisco Bay Area surrounding San Francisco County including Oakland and San Jose as well as parts of Central California like Santa Cruz County, while North Bay, with Solano, Sonoma, and Napa Counties hit the hardest.
Over 100,000 canceled classes as schools have closed in some affected areas, and public buildings like hospitals, courthouses, and government offices are relying on generators for power. Some communities are running traffic lights off generators as well, according to the Times, while others are only going without.
However, PG&E noted that even after the tumulus and potentially hazardous weather subsides, people should expect more delays in the return of electricity.
“Once the weather dies down, we’re still going to have to go out and inspect those lines visually, make sure that the lines are safe before we re-energize,” PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian told KPIX last night. “If there’s any damage, we’re going to have to make repairs.”
PG&E gave less than 24 hours of notice for this first round of shut-offs and said more might becoming. PG&E advises stockpiling drinking water, as water services could be affected by power outages, and planning for life without electricity.
PG&E recognizes that in the light of extended periods without electricity can pose a particular danger to vulnerable populations like children, seniors, low-income people, and those with health issues. To mitigate the negative impacts, the electric company announced that it would open community resource centers in 26 counties Wednesday morning with bathrooms, water, air conditioning, and charging stations.
However, concerned customers flocked the electric company and are currently struggling to access PG&E’s updates because of the surge of traffic to their website.
Less than a month ago, the California energy company agreed to an $11 billion settlement in its most recent case litigating its role in recent wildfires.
Last year, the Camp Fire devastated Paradise, a rural community north of Sacramento, killing 86 people, destroying 14,000 homes and causing $16.5 billion in losses. Victims and insurance companies sued PG&E for damages and wrongful death after its power lines allegedly sparked fires in 2017 and 2018. In January, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.