PG&E says 600000 customers remain in the dark

PG&E says 600000 customers remain in the dark

PG&E says the decision to cut power "was based on forecasts of dry, windy weather including potential fire risk" in California, which is now at the peak of its wildfire season.

The so-called Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) started after midnight Wednesday and could last several days, the utility warned on its website.

Residents, business owners and even public officials expressed frustration about the blackouts, which the utility began on a much smaller scale previous year during times of high fire risk.

PG&E on Thursday had completed inspections on some power lines in its blackout regions, and had restored electricity to 137,000 customers by Thursday afternoon.

A similar cutoff was under consideration by neighboring utility Southern California Edison for almost 174,000 of its customers, about 50,000 of them in Los Angeles County, should severe winds hit southern California on Thursday as forecast, SoCal Edison spokeswoman Taelor Bakewell said.

Gale-force wind gusts, mostly in higher elevations, were expected to intensify late on Wednesday across northern and central California before gradually migrating into southern California overnight and Thursday, National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Anderson said. Coupled with low humidity, that's a prime environment for a rapid fire spread.

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"What has occurred in the last 48 hours is kids staying home from school, parents that can't bathe their kids", he added.

Power will be restored to areas once up to 77 mph (124 kph) winds die down and 2,500 miles (4,025 km) of transmission lines could be inspected.

PG&E CEO Bill Johnson didn't respond to Newsom's criticisms but promised if future wind events require similar shutoffs, the utility will "do better" when it comes to communicating with customers.

The utility said it opened 28 community centers across the planned outage zone to provide restrooms, bottled water, battery charging and air-conditioned seating during the day.

Because of the risky weather in the forecast, PG&E cut power Wednesday to an estimated 2 million people in an area that spanned the San Francisco Bay Area, the wine country north of San Francisco, the agricultural Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills.

"The utilities have known for awhile now, I would say several years", Pincetl said, "that change in climate and the accumulation of brush around the pathways of the grid-lines that there is an increased chance of wildfire being caused by a spark from the grid or some other incident". It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January as it faced billions of dollars' worth of possible liabilities stemming from years of devastating fires in Northern California.

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