PG&E Corp. said it will cut power to about 267,000 people in Northern California in its latest effort to prevent its power lines from toppling over and sparking wildfires in high winds.
The California utility giant, which filed for bankruptcy in 2019 after its equipment was blamed for sparking devastating blazes,said the outages would happen in phases starting overnight in portions of 16 counties, located primarily north of Sacramento and in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
The fire risk is forecast to last through Monday morning, PG&E said. The National Weather Service said the risks for wildfires would increase starting late Saturday evening and remain through Monday across much of Northern California.
“The combination of wind, low humidity, and hot conditions will result in extreme fire weather conditions,” the weather service said Saturday afternoon.
It’s the latest hardship for a state that’s been battered this year by extreme weather and power outages. Last month, a record-breaking heat wave triggered California’s first rotating blackouts since the 2001 energy crisis. Meanwhile, more than 8,000 wildfires have burned a record 3.6 million acres in the state, choking cities with smoke.
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Utilities across the U.S. West are increasingly cutting power ahead of wind storms to reduce the chances of their live wires igniting catastrophic blazes. In Southern California, investigatorsare looking at a power line owned by Edison International’s Southern California Edison as part of their probe into a fire that’s burning in the mountains near Los Angeles.
PG&E’s latest round will impact about 89,000 homes and businesses, or about 267,000 people based on the size of the average California household. The first service cuts will start early Sunday and affect about 15,000 customers, the utility said.
Winds are expected to pick up again Sunday afternoon, when a second round of power shut-offs are planned for about 74,000 customers, PG&E said.
The outages are considerably smaller in scope than previous ones. Earlier this month, PG&E cut power to about 172,000 homes and businesses – or about 516,000 people – as high winds raked California. PG&E emerged from bankruptcy in July after settling wildfire claims for $25.5 billion.
California’s peak wildfire season traditionally runs from September through November. But it’s been growing increasingly longer in recent years, with blazes coming as late as December.
— With assistance by Brian K Sullivan
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