1.5 million Californians in the dark, most now for 2nd day

  • Carlos Lama of Bayside Cafe, which was among businesses to lose power due to PG&E's public safety power shutoff, uses an LED lamp and light from his phone at the counter of the restaurant in Sausalito, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. More than a million people in California were without electricity Wednesday as the state's largest utility pulled the plug to prevent a repeat of the past two years when windblown power lines sparked deadly wildfires that destroyed thousands of homes. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP) Alan Dep

  • Shift supervisor James Quinn walks through a darkened CVS Pharmacy as downtown Sonoma, Calif., remains without power on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Pacific Gas and Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. (AP Photo/Noah Berger) Noah Berger

  • CVS Pharmacy shift supervisor James Quinn throws out ice cream from darkened freezers as downtown Sonoma, Calif., remains without power on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Pacific Gas and Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. (AP Photo/Noah Berger) Noah Berger

  • Joseph Pokorski drinks a beer at The Town Square as downtown Sonoma, Calif., remains without power on Wednesday. AP

  • Armando Espinoza delivers paper products to a cafe in downtown Sonoma, Calif., where power is turned off, on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Pacific Gas & Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. (AP Photo/Noah Berger) Noah Berger

  • James Cooke is shown buying water bottles along with propane tanks and batteries at a ACE Hardware store as he prepares for a possible power shutdown in Los Gatos, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. Millions of people were poised to lose electricity throughout northern and central California after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced Tuesday it would shut off power in the largest preventive outage in state history to try to avert wildfires caused by faulty lines. (Anda Chu/San Jose Mercury News via AP) Anda Chu

  • The lantern section is nearly empty at an ACE Hardware store as shoppers prepare for possible power shutoffs in Los Gatos, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. Millions of people were poised to lose electricity throughout northern and central California after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced Tuesday it would shut off power in the largest preventive outage in state history to try to avert wildfires caused by faulty lines. (Dai Sugano/San Jose Mercury News via AP) Dai Sugano

  • Vehicles backs up on Highway 12 as traffic signals remain dark during a power outage on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Boyes Hot Springs, Calif. Pacific Gas and Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. (AP Photo/Noah Berger) Noah Berger

  • Emergency lights shine inside an otherwise dark Target store at the Gateway Shopping Center in Marin City, Calif, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Pacific Gas & Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP) Alan Dep

  • Caltrans Bay Area Director Tony Tavares gestures while speaking during a media conference on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Tavares revealed that emergency generators set up through the night to keep the Caldecott Tunnel open during a possible PG&E power outage were successfully deployed. Pacific Gas & Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) Ben Margot

  • Daniel Almanza of Bayside Cafe, which was among businesses to lose power due to PG&E's public safety power shutoff, calls a supplier from the office of the restaurant in Sausalito, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Pacific Gas & Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP) Alan Dep

  • Traffic signal lights are out due to PG&E's public safety power shutoff on Shoreline Highway at Highway 101 in Mill Valley, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Pacific Gas & Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP) Alan Dep

  • Crews work to connect generators in effort to keep the Caldecott Tunnel open to traffic during a possible power outage in the afternoon on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Pacific Gas & Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) Ben Margot

  • A Pacific Gas & Electric stands beside his truck near the Caldecott Tunnel Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Pacific Gas & Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. Emergency generators were set up by CalTrans to keep the Caldecott Tunnel open during a possible power outage. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) Ben Margot

  • Armando Espinoza delivers paper products to a cafe in downtown Sonoma, Calif., where power is turned off, on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Pacific Gas & Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. (AP Photo/Noah Berger) Noah Berger

Published: 10/10/2019 1:39:08 PM

More than 1.5 million people in Northern California were in the dark Thursday, most for a second day, after the state’s biggest utility shut off electricity to many areas to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires as strong winds sweep through.

Unprecedented in scope, the deliberate outages by Pacific Gas & Electric forced schools and businesses to close and otherwise disrupted life for many people, bringing criticism down on the company from the governor and ordinary customers alike.

PG&E cast the blackouts as a matter of public safety, aimed at preventing the kind of blazes that have killed scores of people over the past couple of years, destroyed thousands of homes, and run up tens of billions of dollars in claims that drove the utility into bankruptcy.

The shut-offs could be just a glimpse of the what lies ahead for California as climate change contributes to more ferocious blazes and longer fire seasons.

“It’s just kind of scary. It feels worse than Y2K. We don’t know how long,” Tianna Pasche of Oakland said before her area was powered down. “My two kids, their school situation keeps moving every second. It’s not clear if we need to pack for a week and go out of town or what to do. So I’m just trying to make sure we have water, food, charging stations and gas.”

But she added: “If it saves a life, I’m not going to complain about it.”

On Wednesday, PG&E cut power to an estimated 600,000 customers in the San Francisco Bay Area – where wind gusts reached 70 mph early Thursday – as well as wine country north of San Francisco, the agricultural Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills, where a November wildfire blamed on PG&E transmission lines killed 85 people and all but incinerated the town of Paradise. The city of San Francisco itself was not in the shut-off zone.

PG&E warned that customers might have to do without power for days after the winds subside because “every inch” of the system must be inspected by helicopters and thousands of workers on the ground and declared safe before the grid is reactivated.

Ahead of the outages, announced earlier this week, Californians rushed to stock up on flashlights, batteries, bottled water, ice and coolers, took money out of ATMs and filled their gas tanks.

The University of California, Berkeley canceled classes for a second day because the campus had no electricity. Oakland closed several schools.

One of the areas where the power was shut off was the suburban town of Moraga, where about 100 homes were ordered evacuated as a wildfire spread in the hills early Thursday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said PG&E should have been working on making its power system sturdier and more weatherproof.

“They’re in bankruptcy due to their terrible management going back decades,” he said. “They’ve created these conditions. It was unnecessary.”

Faced with customer anger, PG&E put up barricades around its San Francisco headquarters. A customer threw eggs at a PG&E office in Oroville. A PG&E truck was hit by a bullet, but authorities could not immediately say whether it was targeted.

“We realize and understand the impact and the hardship,” said Sumeet Singh, head of PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program. But he urged people not to take it out on PG&E employees.

In the El Dorado Hills east of Sacramento, Ruth Self and her son took the outage there in stride while leaving a Safeway supermarket that had been stripped nearly bare of bottled water and ice. Self said she wasn’t upset, given the lives lost in Paradise, where people were burned in their cars trying to escape.

“I just can’t imagine,” she said. “Hopefully (the outages) are only for a couple days. I think it’s more of a positive than a negative. Ask me again on Friday night when I haven’t had a shower in two days, when I’ve had to spend two days playing card games.”

Meanwhile, Southern California Edison warned that it might cut power to nearly 174,000 customers in nine counties, including Los Angeles. San Diego Gas & Electric notified about 30,000 customers they could lose electricity in backcountry areas.




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