More Than 200,000 Californians Could Lose Power to Prevent Wildfires

By R.J. Johnson - @rickerthewriter

October 22, 2019

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More than 200,000 Californians across 16 counties in the northern part of the state could find themselves without power for up to 48-hours beginning on Wednesday, after Pacific Gas & Electric warned they may have to shut down transmission lines ahead of dangerous weather conditions that could result in another devastating wildfire.

PG&E said in a news conference on Monday that the utility was notifying 201,000 customers by calling, emailing and texting them to let them know about the proposed shutoff ahead of high winds and dry conditions. News of the shutoff comes less than two weeks after nearly 2 million people in northern California lost power in what the utility called a "public safety power shutoff."

Most of the people affected by the shutdown will be in the Sierra Foothills as well as in the northern parts of the San Francisco Bay area.

The National Weather Service issued a 'Fire-Weather' watch for the North Bay mountains, as well as for the East Bay hills and Santa Cruz mountains above 1,000 feet. The watch begins at noon on Wednesday for the North Bay with the East Bay hills and Santa Cruz Mountains beginning later at around 8 p.m.

"We see some hot and windy weather coming into our service area, but we have not made the call yet," said Megan McFarland, a PG&E spokeswoman. "Forecasters are looking at weather models every hour to see what’s happening. We will make the call when we’re ready."

The planned shutoffs could come at different times for the various counties across northern California. PG&E says they'll make a final decision whether to shut off power on the Sierra foothills and the North Bay at around 5 p.m. on Wednesday. San Mateo county may have until 2 a.m. on Thursday, officials said.

“We are dealing with a new reality here, and power shut-offs are one tool that we have.” PG&E Corp. President Bill Johnson said of the shutoffs,

Photo: Getty Images

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