Hundreds of Thousands in California Facing Another Blackout

21 Oct by Vitaliy Dadalyan

Hundreds of Thousands in California Facing Another Blackout

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Hundreds of Thousands in California Facing Another Blackout(Bloomberg) — Hundreds of thousands of Californians are once again facing the prospect of a deliberate blackout as utility giant PG&E Corp. tries to keep its power lines from igniting catastrophic wildfires.Forecasts for strong and dry winds has the San Francisco-based power company considering a shutoff to about 201,000 homes and businesses this week. People in 16 Northern California counties may go dark on Wednesday and Thursday, the company said.The threat of widespread shutoffs is hitting just two weeks after PG&E and Edison International’s Los Angeles area utility carried out the biggest planned blackout in California history, plunging more than 2 million people into darkness, halting traffic lights and forcing businesses to shut across the Bay Area. The outage drew outrage from customers and state officials who accused PG&E of cutting service to more customers than necessary and failing to properly communicate its plans.“More and more of our service area is considered by the state to be high fire risk,” PG&E Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson told reporters at a press conference on Monday. “We’re really dealing with a new reality here. Power shutoffs are one tool to keep the community safe.”PG&E will decide sometime Tuesday afternoon whether to move forward with the shutoffs, Johnson said. Customers should be prepared for an outage that may last 48 hours, he said. Some parts of the state may see gusts as strong as 60 miles (97 kilometers) an hour during a storm that’s expected start late Wednesday and last into Thursday, PG&E meteorologist Scott Strenfel said.Edison, which had said earlier on Monday that it may cut power to 17,300 customers, meanwhile dropped its warning as winds remained light.The risk of fire in Southern California, however, remains: One blaze erupted Monday near the affluent Pacific Palisades coastal enclave, forcing an evacuation of several streets. Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. The neighborhood is served by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, he said.“We’re just determined to not let that happen here,” Johnson said of blazes that have broken out in Southern California.Low humidity will cover California this week, the National Weather Service said, and temperatures are expected to hit between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius). “The general pattern persists for most of the week, so they could be under the gun for potential fire issues going forward,” said Bob Oravec, a senior branch forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.Inside the high-risk area is the ongoing Saddle Ridge Fire, which has been burning for more than a week and has consumed about 8,800 acres (3,561 hectares), according to the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection. It is about 89% contained, Cal Fire reported.Two years of wildfires helped push PG&E, the state’s biggest utility owner, into bankruptcy after its equipment was identified as the cause of devastating blazes that included the Camp Fire in November 2018 that killed 86 people and destroyed an entire town. The company has been taking more extreme measures since to keep its equipment from sparking more blazes.There is little chance of rain to raise humidity in California this week and soak potential fuel, according to Oravec. “It is going to continue to be dry with a weak Santa Ana through most of the week,” he said.(Updates number of customers impacted in second paragraph, adds PG&E CEO quote in fourth paragraph)\–With assistance from Lynn Doan.To contact the reporters on this story: David R. Baker in San Francisco at [email protected];Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina Davis at [email protected], Lynn Doan, Ramsey Al-RikabiFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.