PG&E Corp. is preparing to cut the lights to 162,000 Californians in 24 counties in its latest effort to keep strong winds from knocking down live wires and igniting wildfires.
PG&E will make a final decision on the power cuts, with the first customers expected to go dark later that day, Mark Quinlan, an incident commander for the San Francisco-based utility, said during a briefing. Two back-to-back wind storms are forecast to hit the region, one on Wednesday and another on Thursday. The company warned that some may be without power until late Friday.
California has been plagued by wild weather all year. In a matter of months, the state has endured unprecedented heat waves, freak lighting storms, powerful gusts, extremely dry weather and a record-breaking wildfire season. Blazes this year have charred more than 4 million acres, killed 31 people and destroyed more than 9,200 homes and businesses, according to the state’s fire agency.
And the widespread shutoff that PG&E is planning is only the latest blackout to hit America’s most populous state. The company has already had to cut the lights multiple times this year during high winds.
And in August, California’s grid operator ordered the first rotating outages since the Enron-era energy crisis of 2001 as scorching weather sent electricity demand surging.
What would make this latest outage especially painful is that it’s expected to hit California’s Wine Country, where many are still reeling from a devastating blaze that broke out last month. Unlike previous blackouts, this one would also hit more densely populated parts of the San Francisco Bay area.
PG&E has expanded the planned outage since initially announcing it. Originally, about 146,600 people were expected to lose power until late Thursday.