California may see 3rd blackout amid fire fears

Alonzo Simpson
October 9, 2019

Others, including Sonoma, Placer and El Dorado counties, are estimated to have more than 50,000 customers lose power in the event of a shutoff. It's the latest testament to how climate change-driven extreme weather is forcing people and businesses alike to adapt.

But the potential outages will not be limited to fire-prone areas because the utilities must turn off entire distribution and transmission lines to much wider areas to minimize the risk of wildfires.

The planned shutoff appears to spare most of Silicon Valley's big tech operations.

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Originally estimating Monday a total of 650,000 customers, PG&E said Tuesday that about 150,000 additional customers will be affected in parts of Humboldt, Kern, Marin and Trinity counties. A detailed map posted on PG&E's website also showed Tesla Inc.'s Fremont factory lying outside the zones, as well as San Francisco, PG&E's hometown. This year, the company agreed to pay billions of dollars to a group of insurance companies representing claimants from deadly northern California wildfires in 2017 and 2018. PG&E has begun switching off transmission lines in advance of high winds. "We understand the effects this event will have on our customers and appreciate the public's patience as we do what is necessary to keep our communities safe and reduce the risk of wildfire", said Michael Lewis, PG&E's senior vice president of Electric Operations. Another major fire sparked by its equipment could upend its restructuring plans by creating new claims that would take priority over existing ones. Shares fell 3.6% at 1:45 p.m.in NY.

The affected regions include an area of wine country north of San Francisco where several fires two years ago killed 22 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

Due to a potentially widespread, strong and dry wind event starting Wednesday morning, there is a potential for a Public Safety Power Shutoff to affect 5,700 Yolo County customers during the period of Wednesday, Oct. 9 - Thursday, Oct. 10 in the areas of Winters, Madison, Esparto, Guinda, Rumsey, Brooks, and Capay. Although the electrified rail service gets power from PG&E, its own cables can redistribute electricity during a blackout and the agency has set up back-up generators, Bart spokesman Jim Allison said.

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